How Does The World Celebrate 21st Birthdays Besides Beloved Cards


Even in this technologically advanced world with the sophistication of digital messages flowing over social media in a matter of a few keystrokes or the simplicity of e-cards placed perfectly to an inbox, there’s still nothing compared to peering in the mailbox to a lovely colored envelope on your birthday.

It’s not merely the printed message that loved ones take painstaking efforts to select just for you, but the handwritten sentiments they share that bring such joy. Often birthday cards are the only genuine connection family and friends share in what’s become a hectic-paced world, and no one wants to let go of that tradition, especially on a milestone.

A milestone for which most young people can anticipate receiving many good wishes is the day they turn 21. Go here to learn the significance of the 21st birthday. For many countries, families use specific ceremonies and traditions to announce these individuals into the world of adulthood.

In the United States, many of the legal responsibilities held until age 21 now become introduced at age 18, except for alcohol consumption. While some choose to celebrate the day with restraint and grace, curious individuals will indulge in the “adult” beverages once prohibited to them as their way of pronouncing their newfound freedoms. 

Celebrating 21st Birthdays Around The World

Birthday cards date back to Ancient Egypt and China when the people first wrote messages on papyrus rolls for the Ancient Egyptians. The concept of heartfelt sentiments in the “cards” has remained consistent throughout the centuries.

No matter the age, we look forward to these showing up in our mailbox on our big day, especially when it’s a milestone. None is more spectacular than the 21st birthday, which most countries use as a prestigious occasion to mark a young person’s foray into adulthood with their own traditions and celebrations to welcome the event.

Regardless of the country, birthday cards (check these out at ) play a primary role. They might, though, take varied forms depending on the region. On a memorable day such as this, cards help express thoughts and feelings of family and friends to the guest of honor. Let’s look at some countries and how they celebrate.

●      Holland

Holland designates the milestone as an exceptionally special occasion. The birthday denotes a “crown year” where the newly recognized young adults receive royal treatment beginning with the first day of their 21st year.

The gift received will be huge in comparison to any other year. There is a specific chair decorated in paper flowers and streamers in their honor at the table. The meal is typically a treat of pancakes with a dusting of powdered sugar and “taarties” sprinkled on top served with either hot chocolate or lemonade.

●      Philippines

A debut in the Philippines is quite lavish when women become 18 and men are 21, with elaborate parties celebrating entrance into adulthood. The women’s extravaganza is much more grandiose. The debut notes originating from the quinceanera, a Spanish idea. For Filipino women, 18 is their coming of age due to their maturing sooner.

The tradition indicates an entourage of 18 with 18 candles and roses to represent the milestone, while each will take 18 shots to toast the commemorative speeches presented to the debutante.

Men’s 21st celebration is somewhat less lavish, more so of what one would consider being a standard birthday celebration.

●      South Africa

In South Africa, there’s not an actual birthday celebration for one’s 21st year. Birthdays as a custom means to commemorate the day a person initiates into the community. It’s similar to the way Australian tradition is in that there is a key given to the young person symbolizing the individual now prepared to “unlock the future.”

The keys received by the individuals are typically silver, gold, or there will be some that consist of aluminum foil since traditions will vary with each tribe. The delicacies will also range from crocodile sirloin to the popular fried caterpillars.

●      Australia

Australians have the fortune of warm weather and brilliant sunshine throughout the year, allowing for barbeque birthday celebrations. While the food is sensational – everyone loves barbeque; the dessert is specific. Fairy cake is typical for a 21st celebration. That is a buttered cake with sprinkles over the top, also referenced as “hundreds and thousands.”

After the cutting of the cake, the custom is for family members to present a speech. Tradition dictates that the young adult receive a household key to represent freedom from curfews. It also acknowledges they always have a place to come home.

●      United Kingdom

The United Kingdom roots its 21st celebration day deeply in history, relating it to knighthood rituals. When men reached the age of 21, they would move to the position of knight.

Today, these are special commemorations of celebration, days to give thanks, and opportunities for parents to reminisce over the maturation they’ve witnessed in their child over these 21 years. If there are spouses, they will also speak words of love. The guest of honor will express gratitude for those who shared the day with them.

●      Brazil

In Brazil, not only is the 21st birthday celebrated with loads of color and cheer but all birthdays. One’s special day is always considered a reason to celebrate. Candies in the shapes of fruits and vegetables are a sweet treat with decorations like banners and paper flowers in vibrant colors and displays.

The birthday cake is a time-honored tradition with a twist. Instead of the guest of honor receiving the first slice, this person gets to pick a special guest deserving of the first piece before the rest of the cake is served and before they receive their own.

These are all-inclusive birthday traditions, not merely meant for someone turning 21-year-old. There are no designations for “special” birthdays. All birthdays are equally considered an “occasion” in this country and treated as such.

Final Thought

When we look at each of the celebrations in the different countries, the young people are viewed one day in many ways as a child, but the next day introduced into adulthood (in some regions) carrying many expectations. In the United States, some adult responsibilities begin as early as 18, including participating in military service.

For some, like in Australia and South Africa, the reality of what the 21st birthday means doesn’t come until they receive the birthday card with the key announcing them as adults ready to make entry into their future. That’s a powerful representation, indicating basically as an adult, you are now responsible for . . . you.

As kids, everyone looks forward to the day they become an adult. On the day of celebration, it can prove exhilarating with the party favors, the deserts, the colorful decorations, and everyone commemorating you.

Once that all comes down, life will forever change. That day served as the bridge between youth and adulthood, with the only memories you can carry with you being the birthday cards with sentiments from beloved family and friends who knew the child and will grow with this new adult. The cards might change, maybe decrease as you age, but you can always look back and cherish your 21st Birthday cards.


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