The 21st Birthday


Ah… 21. It’s a birthday we cherish in some Pacific communities. Here at me&mycousin, we’ve been to our fair share of 21st birthday celebrations and have collated a list of essentials, to make sure your birthday is one you remember for all the right reasons, or you know… remember at all. We’ll start with the cake..

1. The 21st cake

Possibly the best 21st cake Ive ever seen

It’s not your wedding cake, but if you’re having a typical Islander 21st, it needs to be big enough to feed a smallish village. Most Islanders – scrap that – most people will measure the success of an event by the quality and quantity of the food. The cake is no different just to a lesser extent. So maybe try and make the shape of the cake something cool that you love, and then multiply it by 4 and you’ll have your 21st birthday cake.

2. The 21st key

21st key by Bena Mann, Auckland

21st keys have become a really big deal over time. From what used to be the key to a house for a 21 year old in Elizabethan England, the key is now a symbol for ‘unlocking the door to life’ so to speak. Not only that its a great tool for reminiscing, with all the messages that family and friends write on the back of it. Recently Pacific Islanders have been getting more personal with their keys, getting them carved in wood, or with Pacific designs on them. Plug: Bena Mann is a carver who specializes in 21st keys, and is already in high demand. Based in Auckland, you will find Bena’s keys all over the place especially between New Zealand and the Eastern part of Australia.

3. Speeches

This is one of those categories where, good or bad it’ll definitely be memorable. In the speeches part of the 21st there are usually some golden moments, because it’s the chance for your loved ones to tell you and everyone else how they remember you and how much they love you. Here are our do’s and don’ts of the 21st birthday speech.

Don’t: Talk about ‘that-time-that-your-best-friend-got-alcohol-poisoning’ (unless you want to get a hiding along with the birthday boy/girl); get drunk before the speeches and leave in the middle of everyone else pouring their heart out to you because you need to go to the bathroom (happened); say things like ‘even though I’m disappointed’ (happened); or insult the guests.

Do: Please we pray.. please keep your speech under 30 minutes, or suffer evil looks from every partygoer; be sincere and from the heart, talk about what you know; and take the time to thank everyone you truly love (its the best time to do so wouldn’t you say?)

Having said all that, I always think that Tofiga put it best in the first Laughing Samoans show with his Uncle Sam speech, above.

4. Performances/items

The bit that comes after the speeches. This is another part of the 21st birthday that Pacific Islanders are particularly big on [see: Youtube] and will usually involve the birthday person’s brothers/sisters/cousins/friends preparing far in advance and/or getting hidings from our stage parents for… can anyone really remember why they used to get hidings? Anyways peep the video below to see what some people put together for their items.

5. People

‘Party with the family’ – still from the film No. 2, written and directed by Toa Fraser

Ill always remember after one of my cousins 21sts when I said, it’s a shame that so and so couldn’t come and she said ‘nah, everyone that was supposed to be there, was there’ and I thought, how true is that? Because we had such a good night and can burst out laughing about her birthday still today. Sometimes when we/our families want to have a big party for us, they lose track of that and start to invite the whole of Greater Western Sydney, but see sometimes it’s about the quality; and when it’s a birthday it should always be about the birthday boy/girl. So keep that in mind when you’re sorting out your invites. If you’re like ‘who’s that?’ or ‘Oh, I remember…’ or ‘but Mum I haven’t seen him since I was 7’, then rethink whether you want them there.

Sign off: like ‘Uncle Sam’ said, ‘Sela…happy. 21’.

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