Entering adulthood is a special occasion in any child’s life, but every culture has a different way of observing it. Here are five of the most fascinating coming-of-age rituals from around the world.
1. Describing White Castle to a blind person in Mongolia: This 2,000-year-old ritual, where an 18-year-old girl is tasked with explaining the concept of White Castle to a visually impaired person, is sacred in many areas of Mongolia. Should the girl fail to convey just how little the hamburgers are, she will be considered dead to her family and forced to live in the sewers of Ulaanbaatar for the remainder of her days.
2. Absorbing your father in Finland: Upon reaching the age of 18, Finnish boys partake in the ceremonial “syventyä,” a solemn tradition where the boy completely absorbs his father into his own body over the course of several days to symbolically announce his entry into manhood. The process is extremely painful for both the boy and his father, and while the father is free to scream at will, the boy must remain completely silent during the entire absorption. In the event that the boy has no father to absorb, he must then absorb a moose instead or forever be considered a child.
3. Getting your first period on national television in Japan: In Japan, girls traditionally enter womanhood live on the country’s top-rated primetime program Getting It Now: Go! The Period Happen. Each episode depicts various Japanese schoolgirls in white pants experiencing their very first period, at which point they are rewarded with a plush doll of the show’s mascot, Chokichi the Tampon Goose, and officially proclaimed women.
4. Solving the standard, no-frills riddle of the sphinx in Italy: The economy being what it is right now, Italians don’t really stand to gain much from putting another barrier between their children and the workforce, so as soon as any 18-year-old says “man” or “person” or whatever, even if it’s in reference to something totally different, the riddle is considered solved.
5. Tricking your widower French dad into finally going on a date: Leave it to the French to have the most romantic coming-of-age ritual on this list. At the young age of 11, kids in France are expected to covertly set their moping, lonely dad up with a woman who would really appreciate him and has gone through some hardships of her own. If the 11-year-olds aren’t able to find a woman who’s compassionate and maybe a little quirky to trick their self-denying dad into going on a date with, they must continue to live as a child until they’re conscripted at the age of 18.