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Coming of Age – How Periods are Celebrated Around the World

by Megan Johnstone(more info)

listed in fertility, originally published in issue 261 - March 2020

Your first period is certainly a significant point in your life, but many women will not have a vivid recollection of this moment — it simply passed them by, and they entered womanhood quietly. A woman’s monthly flow becomes something of a routine, from picking up tampons for heavy periods to dealing with menstrual cramps — so why shouldn’t we celebrate the start of what is a life journey for girls? Some countries do not allow a girl’s first period to fall into obscurity, instead they’re keen to make something of a song and dance (or even a marathon) over it.


Coming of Age


Many rituals are rooted in cultural beliefs, and a young girl will become a woman under the careful watch of her older female relatives as they pass on their own wisdom to a new generation. With this in mind, let’s explore some period-related customs from around the world and see if there’s anything we could learn here in the UK.


A tasty dish of red bean rice is a customary part of beginning the first period ritual in Japan, called Sekihan it is the traditional food associated with celebrating life milestones. The cuisine consists of sticky rice with adzuki bean and is slightly red in colour — making it a great ‘first period’ meal, apparently! The Japanese way of welcoming your first period is somewhat low key in comparison to other countries though, as we’ll find out.

The Philippines

When a girl begins her period, tradition states that the mother will wash the bloodstained underwear, and then the daughter will wash her face with the same water — which sounds pretty unsightly to a westerner! It’s believed to keep spots at bay as puberty progresses at the start of menstruation, but is it worth a pot of concealer or would you take your chances?


Coming of Age


The United Arab Emirates  

Starting your first period is nothing to be quiet about in the UAE, and every family member will be involved in joining the celebration at some point. Gifts and long drawn out parties are the norm, and on the first day of a girl’s first ever period, relatives will be called to share in the news of her coming of age. When she reaches the final day of her period, she will enjoy a hot bath and a special traditional ceremony, to confirm her passage into womanhood.

Papua New Guinea

In Papua New Guinea, on the Bougainville Island starting your period is an entire cultural process in itself, fuelled by medicinal herbs to help you physically and mentally grow into a woman. However, it begins with a month of indoor confinement, during which a woman’s relatives will feed her a hearty diet and tama tama, a traditional ingredient. Once the month has passed, the party begins and every comes together to celebrate the transition from girl to woman. She will be bathed by her elders, and scrubbed with more medicinal herbs, then paraded around to receive congratulations from onlookers. It’s a real spectacle, and the girl will be told of her new duties and responsibilities as a woman.




Attitudes towards menstruation seem tame in the western world when compared to some of these outlandish celebrations. Most cultures acknowledge this moment as a ‘coming-of-age’ and some take a far more vocal and celebratory approach than others. While here in the UK, we might be seen as more reserved when it comes to periods, acceptance is slowly growing as periods become more mainstream — even acts such as period parties can prove valuable for tackling the menstrual stigma!

Whether your first period was a quite affair or not, it is certainly an important time in life as you begin to grow as a woman and a person.



About the Author:

Megan Johnstone is a copywriter with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and History. She has a keen interest in topics such as health, lifestyle and fashion. She may be contacted via  MediaWorks


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About Megan Johnstone

Megan Johnstone BA is a copywriter with a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and History. She has a keen interest in topics such as health, lifestyle and fashion. She may be contacted via  MediaWorks

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