Celebrant USA Foundation & Institute’s Library



Lilianna’s Sweet Sixteen Party
Sunday, May 16, 2004

Celebrant, Kim Kirkley

[Suggestion shared wit and wisdom: every one who attends will be given a pen and an index card on which they will write some bit of wit or wisdom that helps them in their life. At the end of the ceremony, each person reaches into a “hat” and picks a piece of wisdom to take home.]

Welcome everyone. Today we gather together to celebrate Lilianna Russel’s Sweet Sixteenth birthday.

For thousands of years ceremony has played a key role in all societies around the world, particularly at the times of major or significant transition in people’s lives. These ceremonies or rites of passage assist people in taking that step. From birth our minds and spirits are slowly shaped by a set of values, customs and mythologies specific to our time and place; they give our lives structure and meaning. The most important spiritual values are usually expressed in ceremony. Tonight we gather to honor Lilianna, and to celebrate with her as she moves through this rite of passage on her sixteenth birthday. This is the completion of sixteen years of growth and learning and she is poised at the beginning point of a new stage in her life, perhaps the most exciting and challenging segment of her life.

This celebration reminds all of us that ‘we cannot live forever in a steady state, as many may wish, but we can transform, over and over again, to better meet life’s changing demands. Even as some of us may miss the child that Lilianna once was, we know that for Lilianna, her family and friends this is a day of celebration! This ceremony is a moment when we let Lilianna know that we are gathered here to tell her, that we, her family and friends, are really glad that she is part of our lives, that she is a very special and talented person, that we support her and we love her.

Now we welcome Lilianna’s older sister, Mia, to offer a libation – a type of prayer from many African traditions – for this happy time!


[We say “Ashe” in the call and response tradition meaning “And so it is.” It is similar to “Amen.” We can include it if you wish.]

An African proverb tells us that people who lack the knowledge of their past are like a tree without roots.  So, in the spirit of remembrance, we pour this libation. We pour to honor the past, so that we may learn from it. We pour to honor the importance of family. We raise our cup to Creator to show our reverence for the original source of our lives. We use cool water as a symbol of the continuity of life, to purify and to nourish our souls. We pour to celebrate Lilianna’s Sixteenth year and her journey toward happy, responsible adulthood. [Ashe]

It is said that through others, we are somebody. Through this gathering we acknowledge Lilianna’s family circle, remembering her heritage and recall those who gave her life. We celebrate her ancestors -- her mother, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers, her father, her grandfathers, and her great-grandfathers, uncles, aunts, and cousins - the foundation of her family, immortalized in our thoughts. We celebrate those who taught her to love herself. [Ashe]

We celebrate all of our elders, whose wisdom we seek in all endeavors; We celebrate Lilianna’s friends whom she is blessed to have in her life; Her parents who are her primary guides along the road to adulthood. We call upon family who have passed over or simply could not be here today. We ask that they be with us in our thoughts. We celebrate the gift that is Lilianna’s life. May she always find happiness in her self and her connection to the all that is. In the spirit of love and genuine respect for life, may she always have the courage to follow her heart.  [Ashe]

Therefore, we cast our libation to the North, [Ashe] to the South, [Ashe]to the East, [Ashe] and to the West. [Ashe] We wish everyone to leave this Ceremony more blessed than when they arrived. [Ashe]

Lilianna’s two sisters read: “A Family Is”

Mia:  A family is a deeply rooted tree with branches of different strengths, all receiving nourishment from an infinite source.

Allana:  A family is where character is formed, values are learned, ethics are created, and society is preserved.

Mia:  A family is where all members, whether related by blood or by love, contribute and share, cooperate and work and accept their responsibilities toward the good of the group.

Allana:  A family is where holidays are celebrated with feasting, birthdays acknowledged with love and thoughts of days gone by kept alive with fond remembrances.

Mia:  A family is where each can find solace and comfort in grief, pleasure and laughter in joy, and kindness and encouragement in daily living.

Allana:  A family is a haven of rest, a sanctuary of peace and most of all a harbor of love.

From Jean Bollen, ‘There is a potential hero in every woman. She is the leading lady in her own life story, on a journey that begins at her birth and continues through her lifetime. As she travels on her particular path, she will undoubtedly encounter suffering; feel loneliness, vulnerability, uncertainty and know limitations. She may also find meaning, develop character, experience love and grace, and learn wisdom. To be a hero on her own heroic journey, a woman must begin with the attitude that her choices do matter. In this process of living from this premise, something happens; a woman becomes a choicemaker, a hero who shapes who she will become.‘

In her hero’s journey, Lilianna is already acting as a choice maker. I invite each of us now to take time to think of Lilianna, reflecting on our connections to her.  Let us send her loving energy at this time of transition.



Her parent’s have shared with me that she was a colicky baby, then a rather talkative little girl who has always had an admirable sense of determination. Maybe some of you remember the mischievous, helpful little girl that Lilianna once was. Now we will have reflections from those who have been with her since the beginning – first Lilianna’s father, Tim and then her mother, Cynthia will speak to their love and pride in Lilianna’s growth.



To honor the past sixteen years, Lilianna will reflect upon what each candle represents to her. As Lilianna shares her reflections with us, I invite everyone to reflect on your own growth and what has been important for you. After she blows out her candles and we sing “Happy Birthday” please stay where you are.

[Lilianna shares her reflections as she lights the candles and then blows them out. Applause! Singing!]


Family and friends, we are going to make a tunnel of transition – the transition into young womanhood. Please line up in two rows facing each other, holding your hands over your heads, with finger-tips touching those of the people opposite.

Lilianna will be sent on her journey from one end by her mother and father. She will pass through the tunnel touching all our lives, and will emerge through the threshold into adult life to be greeted, garlanded and embraced by her older sister, Mia, herself a young adult.


I invite each of you now to come forward and share your reminiscences of your relationship with Lilianna. [Open mike]

Thank you all for coming and sharing your good wishes with Lilianna. As the ceremony has now concluded, let the festivities begin!