What’s so special about 21st birthdays?

Now, if there’s a birthday to celebrate I will put my hand up and say that my interest is very much pricked. Cake, beer (and if you’re lucky a barbecue too).

Whilst I was devouring my well-done beef and red pepper burger slathered with ketchup at the last birthday celebration I attended, I was left reflecting on an important one in particular.

The big, the massive, the HUGE ‘21st birthday.’

Most people still feel that there is still some special, sparkly significance behind this age in particular, but perhaps it doesn’t quite mean the same as in past times.

In the US, it means being able to enjoy your first (legal) alcoholic beverage, for Brits this was the medieval moment that a noble young lad was considered “of age” and would be knighted.

I can hear the distant cheers now, as the sword taps my shoulders accepting my new found nobility with great aplomb – ‘Sir Joe,’ has a nice ring to it doesn’t it?

It’s a lot more difficult to get knighted nowadays, I’ll tell you. But why does the 21st birthday still carry so much significance and is this sentiment shared all the way across the globe?

The Jewel in The Crown

First let’s hit the Netherlands where the 21st birthday is celebrated with a fair amount of panache.

Here, the 21st birthday is typically known as the ‘crown year,’ because supposedly this is the year in which young adults start being treated like kings and queens. Not quite in the same ballpark as being knighted, but if this was the rule in my house (or should that be palace?) I know I wouldn’t be complaining.

Newly crowned Dutch folk typically receive a more grandiose gift than usual, as well as a chair adorned with paper streamers and flowers painstakingly decorated by their parents for the dining room table.

And to top it off they will be treated to a stack of delicious pancakes. A meal undoubtedly fit for kings (and queens).

A Coo-Key Celebration in South Africa

A little further south on the globe in South Africa, your 21st is literally a ‘key’ moment in the lives of the beneficiary.

As well as a birthday celebration, of course, the fortunate recipient will receive a key made out of either gold, silver or aluminium.

Is this the key to a Porsche Cayenne or perhaps their very own home, in the style of MTV’s `Super Sweet Sixteen’ you may be asking?

Not quite. This key is more symbolic and represents the start of their adulthood life, helping them to ‘unlock’ their future.

Australians too,  put a lot of significance on keys.  This time though, things are more straightforward. The key to the family home will be given to the birthday boy or girl on their 21st birthday, to show that they are now allowed to come and go as they please.

So for all you parents out there, bear that in mind when thinking about who rules the roost!

To have your cake and…. give it?

All the way to South America now, one of the most vibrant continents in the world, known for its  delicious food, mindblowing carnivals, skilful dancing and football teams the likes of which nobody has seen since.

As you might expect South American 21st birthday celebrations are  BIG parties. But there’s one particular aspect of it that’s a little bit different.

Now, I know as soon as I see my those candles on top of my birthday cake my immediate thought is to greedily devour the first piece. In Brazil, it’s a little bit more selfless. The cake, or ‘bolo de aniversário’ is cut as usual, but the first piece is given to a special person of the birthday haver’s choice.

So if you’re a fan of the icing-topped, chocolatey treat and have a friends birthday coming up – I’d highly recommend keeping in their good books, especially on milestones like their 21st birthday!

If you need a little helping hand with what to get that important soon-to-be grown-up for their 21st birthday, and don’t feel like decorating a chair or surrendering the keys to your house, take a peek at our quick solution for a difficult present here.

We give a quick and easy solution to making a personalised gift for those you love, full of fun facts and information about the day they were born.



  1. Hello, I’ve ordered birthday books for various members of the family, but we have an 18th Birthday coming in July. Do you do a special book for an 18 year old to celebrate 🎉 their birthday.
    Many Thanks

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