**ALL THAT IS DONE MUST BE EMPOWERING. ENSURE THAT THE GATHERING IS PART-RITUAL/PART-CELEBRATION.** The special girl should be involved in the planning process although you may want to include some element(s) of surprise for her.
– Mark the date of the special girl’s first menses. Have her pour her blood into the earth. Take a few photos of her if she’s open to it. Keep date & photos in a special place ie. diary, journal or scrapbook. Consider having a special family breakfast/dinner to honour the occasion.
For the larger celebration:
-Invite a small group of females (girls/women) via cards, evites or phone calls to the moon/red party. Only invite people who the special girl is comfortable with. For those who are unaware give them a brief overview of what a COA celebration is. It’s key to demystify it for people.
Date: Soon after special girl’s first period ie. new moon, weekend or two after menses starts.
-Tape most/all of the celebration.
-Ask each attendee to bring a dish. ie. Have the special girl’s favourite foods and/or red foods like red grapes, strawberries/raspberries, red bananas, tamarinds, cherries, tomatoes, grape juice, sorrel, beets, kidney or pinto beans, pomegranates, radishes, bay grapes, red zinger tea, womb teas, okra, red cabbage, red pepper, ground provisions (dasheen, sweet potatoes, yams, eddoes), red quinoa, greens (all types).
-Have a Ms. Love Yourself “pageant” with the special girl and her friends. Heels, makeup and shaving aren’t necessary. Organize the programme with the girls. Focus: self-love, community service, sisterhood. No competition. All sizes, complexions, colloquialisms, hair textures are welcome. Natural hair is strongly encouraged. Alternatively treat her to participating in Little Miss “Happy” Headed.
-Encourage attendees to wear the colour(s) the special girl requests ie. red, pink, white and/or her favourite colour(s).
-Plant a fruit-bearing tree in your yard (or another special place) symbolizing the girl’s ability to bring forth life. Give your daughter a small crown to wear at the celebration.
-Gifts (optional): Books on menstruation/womanhood like the Ooops book, linen set, flowers like roses/carnations/hibiscuses, natural makeup, heels, natural pads, moon cards, “wombman” pillows, empowering music, special undergarments or pajamas (red/pink/dark colours), moon and/or yoni jewelry, journal, womb teas (nettle, red raspberry, cerasee, cramp bark, slippery elm, dong quai, ginger, evening primrose, peppermint, squaw vine, red clover, wild yam, chamomile), *moonstones, **waistbeads, gift certificate to a spa, body piercing(s). A ring is also perfect ie. pearl, ruby etc.
-Location: Somewhere cozy ie. the special girl’s home, a park, favourite restaurant/ hotel. Decorate the space with simple decorations like balloons, streamers, flowers like roses/carnations/hibiscuses, cowry/beach shells, moonstones. You may want to have some pillows on hand for attendees to sit on. If the special girl would enjoy it have a special seat or pillow for her.
-Set up a small table with a white/red/pink tablecloth. Feel free to decorate it with cowry/beach shells, flowers like roses/carnations/hibiscuses, moonstones, ocean water/rocks. Place a few photos of the special girls’ female ancestors on the table. Have it in a prominent place at the gathering ie. near the door, in the living room etc.
-Music: Refer to COA music document. Play instrumentals, empowering music throughout the celebration. Lyrics should refer to our beauty (inside-out), the strength of females & the importance of taking time out for ourselves/loving ourselves etc. You may want to choose 1-2 short songs to chant together.
-Have a decorated red/pink/white cake or cookies (ie. new moon-shaped or with new moon on it). You may want to incorporate flowers, relevant phrases, fertility symbols and/or cowry/beach shells which signify “fertility.”
-Play 2-3 games about menstruation/womanhood. Fun, lighthearted ones. http://www.puzzle-maker.com can be used for creating customized word searches.
-Watch The Cosby Show episode (Season 7, Episode 9) that focuses on Rudy’s coming-of-age.
-Make one or two cloth pads with the special girl.
-Have a few short rituals ie:
1)Form a circle & have each attendee (along with the special girl & her mom) mention a woman (living or ancestor) who played a major role in their development as a female.
2)Have the special girl “give away” something from childhood ie. doll, book, toy. Mom can store it in a special place as opposed to throwing it out. This way you can pull it out at another important time in her life.
3)Have a discussion re: menses, sexuality, sisterhood/womanhood. Share words of wisdom/poetry/dance. Attendees can share their menarche & menses’ stories. For women who had/have difficulties with menses ensure that healthy solutions are discussed. People may want to mention what they wish they’d been told by their moms/godmas/special aunts before/when they experienced their first periods.
4)Have everyone write down a “wish for womanhood” (specifically for the special girl). The girl can keep the wishes in a special place ie. in a journal or a special box.
5) Have special girl/mom/grandma or godma light 3 candles. White symbolizes “girlhood/pre-menstrual phase.” Red symbolizes the “fertile years” and black symbolizes “elderhood/post-menstrual years.” Special girl/mom/grandma or godma may want to place the candles on the little table (one with photos of female ancestors).
6) Have mom/daughter stand in front of a mirror. Mom tells daughter what is similar yet different about each of them. Daughter shares too. Mom can tell daughter what she was up to at her daughter’s age. Daughter can share about what she hopes to be able to say to her daughter when she’s in her mom’s shoes (if she’d like to be a mom someday).
7) Have an “ask anything” box. The girls in attendance will write down any questions they have about womanhood on pieces of paper. They’ll be placed in a box. At various intervals throughout the gathering answers will be given to the questions. The answers will be provided by the women in attendance.
8) Have the special girl make something to give each attendee at the end. ie. baked goods etc. This is just to show her appreciation for the role they play in her life.
-Special girl/mom may wear special outfits ie.red or pink, headpieces, hairdos, jewelry, henna, makeup (including kajal or kohl eyeliner). Some parents may want to treat their daughters to getting a piercing/tattoo of some sort.
-Have someone perform a short fertility/womb/belly dance like the ***Het-Heru Dance. ie. girl’s mom, a special aunt/godma or an African dance company. NOTE: The dance company doesn’t have to stay for the entire celebration.
-Consider making it a sleepover/spa party for the special girl & her friends. Feel
free to have a special breakfast the following morning.
-Take photos!! Mark the date/time on them. Keep them in a special place ie.diary, journal or scrapbook.
-Sign the girl up for charm school/etiquette classes (with her permission of course). ie. http://www.esop.bm
-Parents may consider giving daughter 1-2 new household responsibilites. It’s advisable that your daughter starts having 1 cup of cerasee a day throughout the month.
Carnival of the Spirit: Seasonal Celebrations & their Rites of Passage – L.Teish
Like a Natural Woman – Z. Kashef
The Woman’s Book of Healing Herbs – H. O’Donnell
Sacred Woman – Queen Afua
Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture – P.Orenstein
105 Ways to Celebrate Menstruation – K.McBride
A Time to Celebrate – J. Morais
Pain-free Periods: Natural Ways to Overcome Menstrual Problems – S.Weller
Red Flower: Rethinking Menstruation – D.Taylor
The Care & Keeping of You (for 8-12 year olds) – V.Schaefer
Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom – C.Northrup
Rites of Passage: A Celebration of Menarche – L.LaFlamme
Sweet Secrets: Stories of Menstruation – K.O’Grady
First Moon: Celebration and Support for a Girl’s Growing-Up Journey – M.Smith
Honoring Menstruation – L.Owen
Seven Sacred Rites of Menarche – K.Boylan
Moon Mother, Moon Daughter – J.Lucy
Bloodtime Moontime Dreamtime – R.Cantow (DVD)
It’s Your Rite: Girls’ Coming of Age Stories – N.Coon
Her Blood is Gold – L.Owen
Cycle Savvy – T.Weschler
The Period Book – K.Gravelle
Your Feritility Signals – M.Winstein
Taking Charge of Your Fertility – T.Weschler
To My Daughter With Love – S.Schutz
A Daughter Is Life’s Greatest Gift – Blue Mountain Arts Collection
Women’s Rites, Women’s Mysteries – R.Barrett
Come As You Aren’t – N.Dresser
Sacred Ceremony – S.Farmer
Soulful Sweet 16: Celebration Into Womanhood for African-Americans – F.Chanelle-Stroman
Moon Days – C.Steele
Rites of Passage – K.Wall
Growing Up: From Child to Adult – A.Ganeri
Dispatching from Hell: A Vegan’s Guide to Love, Sex, Relationships, and other Suicidal Tendencies – D.Peyser
Generation V: The Complete Guide to Going, Being, Staying Vegan as a Teenager – C.Askew
Daring to be Ourselves – M.Schall
The Love Between a Mother and Daughter is Forever – Blue Mountain Arts Collection
The Girl’s Guide to Loving Yourself – D.Jensen
Her Rite of Passage – C. Mack
The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Real Princesses – S.Bridges
The New Book of Goddesses & Heroines – P.Monaghan
WIld Girls: The Path of the Young Goddess – ” ”
Red Goddess Celebration Box
Red Moon (film)
Eve’s Quest Board Game
http://www.womanwisdom.com (Coming of Age Menarche Kit)
http://www.partofthecure.org (Butterfly Sistas)
http://www.redtentwomensproject.org (I Am Womb meditation – Dr.Tonya K. Freeman)
Things to consider before the COA celebration:
1) Start educating your daughter (at least) a year before you think her period will show itself. Inform her about what puberty/COA means in different cultural contexts. Start talking about what she’d like to do for her COA celebration. Share your ideas too. Keep building over time.
2) Parents may want to read a few titles from above. Daughters may want to read some COA stories like “It’s Your Rite” by N.Coon or “Sweet Secrets” by K.O’Grady. Encourage her to read a book like “The Care & Keeping of You (8-12 Year Olds)” by V.Schaefer. Watch a fun movie on the subject if you can. Ask the special girl what she’d like to do to prepare for COA.
3) Introduce the special girl to womb herbs/exercises. Talk to her about diva cups, natural pads/tampons. Show each to her. She may even want to try wearing each to get a feel for her preference(s). This way the special girl will be fully prepared for menarche. Consider ways for the special girl to have some “alone/relaxing time” whenever her period is on.
4) As parents it is your responsibility to educate your daughter about puberty/adolescence. Do not rely on her school, peers for this. They will not prepare her holistically.
5) Purchase (in collaboration with your daughter) a bundle of quality cotton underwear. Pretty reds, pinks, purples may work well. She can use these each month.