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Celebrate Becoming A Woman: The Menarche Party
Okay, ladies... we all remember our first monthly cycle, right? Where we were, how we coped, what we understood and who it was that explained it all to us. But did we throw a party for it? Probably not. Believe it or not, it is an emerging trend to throw a menarche (onset of menstruation) party for a girl after she has her first monthly cycle!
Wait! Before you roll your eyes and click to another article, consider this. Almost all ancient spiritual traditions include ceremonies or rituals for the coming of age of young adults! Most of these have not survived the forward thrust of modern society that brushes past events like this, unnoticed. But most of us have been to a bar-mitzvah or bat-mitzvah, haven't we? This event celebrates the transition from boy to man and girl to woman and welcomes him or her to their spiritual family.
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
An Ancient Coming-of-Age Celebration
If you've been lucky enough to have read The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, you will remember that a main premise of the book revolves around the ancient Hebrew traditions of womanhood. In this novel, which was meticulously researched by Diamant, when a woman gets her monthly cycle, she is deemed to be "unclean" (the ancient Hebrews being a patriarchal society) and she must exclude herself from interacting with men for the duration of her menses. She goes to the "red tent" (the ancient pagan version was known as the "moon lodge") which is strewn with fresh straw and comfortable cushions to lean on as the woman, along with others she will meet there, relax, bond, and enjoy a time away from the drudgery of daily chores in a place and time that's carved out just for them. There is a special ritual and extra attention paid to the girl who is experiencing her first time in the tent. Although these rituals seems strange to the modern westerner, it can actually be seen as a welcome and enriching tradition, as Diamant portrays it in her book.
Pagans Celebrate Transitions to Adulthood
The pagan religion, which is enjoying a resurgence today, joyfully marks the transition of a young person to adulthood as well. In most pagan sects, the age of 13 is chosen, for numerology purposes. The number 1 symbolizes the individual and the number 3 represents the three Godesses of the divine path. In addition, the numbers 1+3=4, and four is a commonly sacred number for pagans, marking the full circle of life, the four seasons of the year, and wholeness.
The Pagan ritual, like the Jewish bar-mitzvah, also marks the acceptance of the young adult to the spiritual life as prescribed by the Pagan tradition. He or she will, from then on, dedicate themselves to this tradition, its beliefs and rituals. At this time, the young person announces his or her "magikal" name, or the name they will be known as in the Pagan circle and to the Great Spirits. This particular element of the tradition is similar to a Catholic confirmation ritual.
Excellent Story for a Young Girl
Marking Adulthood - Past and Present
In the 15th through the early 19th centuries in Europe and then America, a young woman was allowed to wear her hair up after her first menses, a subtle symbol that she was of child-bearing (and therefore marrying) age. Closer to the end of this era, the lengthening of the girls skirt, from just below the knee to floor length, also meant that she had come into physical womanhood.
Sadly, there are few traditions in modern Western society that truly celebrate the emergence from childhood to young adulthood. The closest we have is perhaps the 21st birthday when a young person goes out to bars and drinks themselves into oblivion. How pathetic is that?
So now maybe you're able to at least consider that a menarche party might not be such a bad idea. Embarrassing? Well, that's part of the problem right there! Should it be embarrassing? Or should a girl be excited, proud and happy to have been launched by her own body into the realm of womanhood, complete with the universal mystical ability to bear a child?
Most girls, at least secretly, hope for their cycles to start, once their friends start to get theirs. The book for girls Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret is a wonderful portrayal of this sometimes painful waiting game (and recommended for any girl between the ages of about 9 or 10 and the time she gets her cycle begins).
A Healthy and Nurturing Angle on Womanhood
The Menarche Party
The party itself is nicest if reserved for only female family members and close friends. Inviting the father or other males is more of an intrusion and tends to bring that "embarrassed" element back into the event, even though there is no reason for it. There is actually a party website with supplies and ideas expressly for a menarche party, but in my opinion they go too far in their exuberance!
This kind of party is nicest when kept low-key, subtle, and relaxing, just as in the "red tent" from the novel. Including a ritual, devised by you or a take on an ancient one, is a nice touch. Bringing a gift that symbolizes womanhood in one way or another is a great idea too. Light refreshments and a good "girl talk" session is all that is really needed for a menarche party, finished off with lots of hugs, exchanging of stories and giving of advice for the guest of honor's new status in life.
Why not consider this idea if you have a young daughter? It could be a wonderful way to erase any feelings of shame or disgust that she may have about her bodily functions, and to foster a self-respect and honoring of womanhood. You don't have to call it a menarche party. It could be anything: welcome to womanhood party or growing up party. The point is to share her exciting event and passage into adulthood with a circle of female loved ones, who will continue to be a support for the young girl as she moves through her life as a woman.
How NOT to have a menarche party: I won't add this last video because, while it's all in good humor, it's a little over the top. But do watch it, it's very funny.
© 2014 Katharine L Sparrow