The legal age in Australia is 18. You can drink and gamble
and pretend to be an adult. However, 21st birthday parties are a BIG
deal. And by big deal, I mean something in between a Bar Mitzvah and Sweet 16.
Although it doesn’t make any sense as to why they would celebrate turning 21
since nothing changes in their legal abilities, it’s just another excuse to get
dressed up and party a bit.

Over the past 2 weeks, I’ve attended two 21st
parties which were very different. You get these adorable invitations for the
parties with baby photos of my friends and details about the party. The first
party for my friend Chris was held at a swanky bar with the whole upstairs was
rented out just for him. With an open bar and niblets roaming the room, it was
so lovely to get away from my college life for a bit, get dressed up, and
socialize.  It was quite a classy
evening. It’s tradition that some friends and family of the birthday boy give
speeches…which are meant to be embarrassing. They come up with the most unattractive
photos and silly stories to share with the crowd.

Last night I went to the 21st of my friend Josh
who lives on my corridor and his was quite a bit different. It was held at his
house in the Yarra Valley about an hour away. Everyone carpools together to the
house and plans to stay over at night in swags (giant warm sleeping bags). His
house was gorgeous and amazing and the farm scenery around us made it feel like
a true getaway.  There was heaps of food
for dinner and snacking. And lots of cheese. And lots of cider on tap. They set
up a tent in their backyard for dancing, and a projection screen for embarrassing
photos and speeches.

When the Australian’s ask why the Americans don’t go all out
for their 21st parties, since it’s actually a big deal for us…I don’t
really have an answer.  I think the
culture of them beginning to drink so early makes it easier for the parents to
get drunk with the birthday boy and his friends. In DC, for 21st
birthdays, we go out for dinner and hit the bars to buy our first legal drink.
Maybe everyone just has a lot more friends here, so you can throw a proper
party for over 100 people.

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