In Norway, as in many other countries, teenagers go through a coming of age ritual to mark the leaving behind of childhood. In the old days, this was a ritual to mark the entrance of adulthood; a 'passage' from childhood to adulthood.
That was before James Dean cemented the teenager into our culture forever; a period of time which seem to expand (in both ends) with each new generation. People don't seem to become grown-ups anymore.
The jewish Bar/Bat Mitzvah, the hindu Upanayanam, the christian Confirmation, the japanese Seijin shiki, even the U.S.' Sweet Sixteen; within different cultural contexts, they all mark the same transition. In Norway, there are two options; the christian and the humanist, which both take place the year the teenager in question turns 15.
Our soon-to-be 15 year old son chose the humanist ceremony. Once a week for 6 months he met up with other teenagers and a group leader to discuss all kinds of subjects related to ethics, humanism, human rights, alcohol and drugs, immigration and class, sex/abortion/homosexuality etc.
The whole thing culminated in a solemn ceremony, and a family party. Speeches were required. So I took the opportunity to tell my son how lucky he is to be born here, now, and receiving applaud, gifts, and cake, instead of all the other things he might have had to endure were he born in a different culture or at another time. For instance (and yes, some of them are hard to believe, hence the photos - they were all shot during the speech):
He didn't have to get undressed and cover himself in ash.
He didn't have to spend several days and nights in a cave, deprived of food, sleep and water.
He didn't have to be attached to a pole through hooks penetrating his skin, and he didn't have to drink the blood of the male elders of the family.
He didn't have to cut his private parts, or otherwise receive the power of manhood through means one would be imprisoned for in our culture.
He didn't have to get tattoos or get tied down in an anthill.
He didn't have to kill a lion or sleep naked in the snow.
We have lost a lot between the blood drinking and the cake. Comfort is not one of them.