Sweet Sixteen Speeches (1)

Title: Sweet Sixteen Speeches

General Information about Item:

  • Folklore Form/Genre: North American Initiation Rituals
  • Informant: Chetana Kalidindi
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: United States of America
  • Place Collected: First Floor Berry
  • Date: 11/2/18

Informant Data:

  • Chetana Kalidindi, 19, was born on August 4th, 1999 in Mountain View, California. She lived there for all of her childhood with her parents and her sister Divya. Although Chetana did not have her own sweet sixteen, she attended her sister Divya’s sweet sixteen and many of her friends’ sweet sixteens. She is currently a sophomore at Dartmouth College.

Contextual Data:

  • Social Context: Both Chetana and her sister Divya grew up in Mountain View, California and they both attended The Harker School, a small private school. They come from a south Asian/Indian background and their family is upper middle class.
  • Cultural Context: Sweet sixteens are a very common celebration to have in Mountain View, California, and most girls celebrate their transition to adulthood by throwing one.


  • At Divya’s sweet sixteen there were many special traditions that happened including a dance where the birthday girl was lifted up by her friends, cutting the cake, and the presentation of speeches about the Divya by her family members and her close friends. The speeches were the most important event of the night. For the speeches, friend and family members went up one by one and each spoke about how they have watched her grow up and about her journey to womanhood. They also speak about why she’s special to them and about their hopes and goals for her future.



E: Could you please describe the tradition?

C: Yeah, so I think the main, like, the biggest part of the night was dancing, and then we had a photographer, so, taking pictures with all of her friends, and they all lifted her up, and I think that was a big part of it, and then right after that we all cut the cake and my parents had speeches.

E: And could you please explain why these ceremonies were important as far as her transition into adulthood.

C: I think, yeah, I think the speeches were the biggest, like, symbol because my parents talked a lot about that and just her growing up, and I know that a lot of other sweet sixteens that I’ve been to are kind of the same situation, but specifically for that we had a lot of speeches. Actually, I gave a speech, and we basically just talked about how she’s grown and I think my dad actually did mention that this was like a symbolic event and she’s now a young woman, so.

E: Alright, thank you.

Informant’s Comments:

  • The speeches are symbolic as they are meant to reminisce on the birthday girl’s childhood and to hope for a bright future. Everyone who gave a speech was someone that was very close to the birthday girl and was someone who had watched her as she had grown up.

Collector’s Comments:

  • When I was younger I went to a family friend’s sweet sixteen and she had a very similar ceremony where her family and friends gave speeches about her. It really was a special moment for everyone involved.

Collector’s Information:

Edward Lu, 18

Dartmouth College

Hanover, NH

Russian 13, Fall 2018

Professor Mikhail Gronas

Professor Valentina Apresyan


  • Sweet Sixteen
  • Speeches
  • Adulthood
  • Womanhood

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *