5 Family Traditions for Daughters

father of the bride
In the U.S., fathers traditionally escort daughters down the aisle at weddings.
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Families often adopt special traditions as a way of making memories. Tucking money under a child's pillow in exchange for lost teeth, snapping photos of kids on their first days of school and ceremoniously handing over car keys to teens when they earn driver's licenses are just a few casual traditions that commemorate families' collective milestones.

In the same way, parent-daughter traditions, which take cues from peoples' location, culture, religion and other influences, celebrate girls' unique role in their families. In the United States, for instance, it's typical for a father to escort his daughter down the aisle when she gets married. However, Jewish marriage tradition maintains that both parents make that wedding walk. And of course, some daughters may elect to change up that custom, strolling solo or with another relative or friend accompanying them. Whatever forms these family traditions for daughters take, they each mark important moments.


5: Quinceañera

Hispanic girls celebrate their 15th birthdays with quinceañeras.
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Many Hispanic cultures celebrate girls’ 15th birthdays with una fiesta especial. The quinceañera, or Sweet 15, party traces back centuries and blends Aztec and European rites of passage [source: Alvarez]. Aztec parents would publicly present their 15-year-old daughters to their community to signal the girls' readiness for marriage. Similarly, European royals might have paraded their coming-of-age daughters in court, ushering them into adult society.

Today, Hispanic girls in the United States and Latin America throw two-part quinceañera parties, which typically consist of a special Catholic Mass followed by a reception. The quinceañera honorees wear floor-length gowns, traditionally in white or pale pink to symbolize virginity, and tiaras, which symbolize their femininity. Near the end of the party, fathers will typically change their daughters' shoes from flat slippers to high heels to signify the girls' graduation to womanhood. This time-honored daughter tradition has become even more popular in recent years, and the "Sweet 15" quinceañera is now a $400 million industry in the U.S. [source: Moreno].


4: Bat mitzvah

bat mitzvah
A girl reads from the Torah at her bat mitzvah.
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One of the most well-known Jewish traditions honors boys' and girls' transition from religious adolescence to adulthood. Jewish law dictates that at the age of 13, boys become responsible for their morality and obeying the 613 mitzvots, or commandments. In making this transition, they usually recite part of the Torah in front of the congregation, and following a tradition that began in the 19th century, the service is followed by a celebration.

Reform Judaism and its more liberal approach to gender equality brought about the bat mitzvah, which translates from Hebrew to “daughter of the commandment.” Bat mitzvahs share the same religious components and Torah recitation as boys’ bar mitzvahs. However, since girls tend to mature faster than boys, Jewish law allows bat mitzvahs to happen at age 12 instead of 13 [source: Meacham]. Similar to a quinceañera celebration, the bat mitzvah religious ceremony precedes a more traditional birthday party hosted by the 12-year-old’s family. The Jewish Women’s Archive notes that the first known bat mitzvah in the United States took place in 1922, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that they became common among all Jewish denominations [source: Hyman].


3: Mehndi Party

An Indian bride's hands decorated with henna.
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Instead of raucous bachelorette parties, Indian and Pakistani brides-to-be get together with female relatives and friends for mehndi parties. The art of mehndi goes back 5,000 years in Asia and is better known in American culture as henna tattoos, temporary body art that lasts around two weeks. For this process, leaves from henna plants are ground finely and combined with water and lemon juice to form a dyeing paste that stains the skin.

As part of traditional Indian and Pakistani wedding preparations, brides' hands and feet are decorated with henna designs that mimic the elegant embroidery patterns stitched into their wedding dresses, known as lehnga. A mehndi artist, or mehndiwalli, will come to the bride's home to adorn her bare skin, and since the process can take many hours, the partygoers will sing and dance to entertain the bride. The next day, the bride will peel away the dried henna paste to reveal intricate red-tinted wedding tattoos. Somewhere within those hennaed vines and curlicues, the mehndiwalli will hide the groom's initials for him to try to find on his wedding night [source: Slyomovics ].


2: Take Our Daughters to Work Day

michelle obama
Michelle Obama greets kids at the White House for Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.
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Parents often tell their children that they can aspire to whatever careers they wish. But that wasn't as true only a few decades ago, before women began working outside the home and making career inroads alongside the guys. Starting in 1993, the Ms. Foundation encouraged parents to take their daughters to work to teach younger girls to embrace that "I can do anything" ethos [source: Ms. Foundation]. Take Our Daughters to Work Day was expanded to Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day in 2003, and it happens annually on the third Thursday in April. With millions of parents and kids participating each year, it has quickly become an American family tradition. In 2011, First Lady Michelle Obama even hosted a group of children whose parents work at the White House for Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.


1: DIY Daughter Traditions

Family traditions for daughters can take any form.
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One of the most enriching aspects of family life is creating novel traditions that bond parents and daughters. Taking into account a daughter's interests and activities, moms and dads can create special traditions of their own, without having to rely on established cultural standards. For instance, mothers and daughters may enjoy getting pampered together with a spa day or a tea luncheon. Fathers and daughters can come up with their own traditions, too, such as father-daughter hikes or taking over the kitchen for a night to cook a fun dinner. Or the more adventurous parent-daughter pairs might prefer annual trips to see new sights together and get in some bonding time.

Family traditions for daughters don't have to be elaborate or expensive, either. Whatever provides a moment away from the business of growing up and fosters genuine friendship, love and timeless memories will do. And while daughters' important rites of passage are certainly meant to be honored, remember that daily traditions of a shared meal, conversations in the car or evening walks can be equally meaningful in a girl's life.


Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Alvarez, Julia. “Once Upon a Quinceañera: Coming of Age in the USA.” Penguin. 2008. (July 22, 2011) http://books.google.com/books?id=ZOLE33j17UwC&source=gbs_navlinks_s
  • Hyman, Paula E. "Bat Mitzvah: American Jewish Women." Jewish Women's Archive. 2005. (July 27, 2011) http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/bat-mitzvah-american-jewish-women
  • Meacham, Tirzah. "Legal-Religious Status of the Female According to Age." Jewish Women's Archive. 2005. (July 27, 2011) http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/legal-religious-status-of-female-according-to-age
  • Moreno, Jenalia. "Hispanic girls' 'Sweet 15' goes mainstream." Houston Chronicle. May 16, 2007. (July 22, 2011) http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/chronicle/4811324.html
  • Ms. Foundation. "Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work." (July 26, 2011) http://ms.foundation.org/about_us/our-history/take-our-daughters-and-sons-to-work
  • Slyomovics, Susan. "Mehndi Party: A Pakistani/Indian Pre-marital Tradition." Wedding Song: Henna Art among Pakistani Women in New York City. New York. 1990. (July 27, 2011) http://www2.hsp.org/exhibits/Balch%20exhibits/rites/pakistani.html