“The rituals are symbolic actions, an enormous signifier that without transmitting anything, the community recognizes in them signs of identity.”

The Disappearance of Rituals, Byung-Chul Han

What is the meaning of a tradition?

Recently, I was invited to a celebration, a party to commemorate the 15th birthday of a coworker’s granddaughter, with whose family we now have a great friendship. This tradition of celebrating a girl’s 15th birthday originates in pre-Columbian cultures — Aztecs and Mayas — and marks the transition from childhood to adulthood. In ancient times, when girls were about to turn 15, they were educated in traditions and domestic chores. Thus, when they turned 15, a party was thrown to celebrate and, in a way, to present or “publish” that the girl was now an adult capable of having and taking care of her own family.

It is clear that things have changed due to a number of factors that I find difficult to enumerate. We can think of the increase in life expectancy, social, cultural, and political changes, among others, things that go beyond the intention of this article, but I can mention at least some elements and their relationship to the tradition of such celebrations. We can see that today, new elements have been incorporated that have somewhat obscured the meaning or origin of this tradition. Surely, in many parts of the world, there is an age and a “ritual” that marks the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood, perhaps not at the age of fifteen, perhaps not with a party, but there is probably some activity that marks the end and the beginning of a new stage in life.

After all, we have different traditions and rituals to mark key moments in our societies. For example, in the United States, they celebrate sweet sixteen, although I am not very familiar with that celebration, it seems to me that it is very similar to the way in which 15th birthday parties are celebrated in Mexico. In general terms, nowadays it is a great party that could be held at any age, at 18, 21, 25 years old. In my opinion, I think it would be more fun to celebrate turning 21 than to celebrate 15 years old.

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I think that celebrating turning 15 is now more focused on the first opportunity the birthday girl has to do her makeup and wear special dresses for the occasion, which after all, is a way of showing herself as a woman and no longer as a child. So it is exciting to be able to participate in a party that preserves, in its forms, the meaning of this tradition.

Thus, with my Nikon F4, a Nikkor 24mm f2.8 AF lens, and a roll of Kodak Pro Image 100, I was ready to witness and immerse myself in a celebration that preserves its origins in modernity, a great opportunity to witness the joy and melancholy of seeing a daughter grow up and celebrate her passage into adulthood, closing and initiating new cycles through rituals that have their origins hundreds of years ago.

~ Abel

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About the author

Avatar - Abel Morales

I am a person who uses photographic equipment to better understand what is happening around me


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  1. I really liked the way you portray and depict, both visually and in writing, those interesting elements and their relationship with that celebration. Beautiful pictures!