In our time-obsessed, accomplishment-oriented era, we conjure up myriad rites of passages.
Those range from the baby's first steps and first day in school to enrollment in an elite college/then business school, first varsity letter, first job, first promotion, first big settlement for a client, first marriage, first comeback and first recovery from alcoholism and then every anniversary of sobriety after that. Our paper photo albums were crammed with those Kodak moments. Now they are on Facebook, our websites and third-party media sites.
In the 16th century, there were much fewer rites of passage. The life cycle essentially was divided up into infancy (which 1/4th didn't survive), childhood/youth (no concept of "teenager" yet and another 1/4th died before age 10), adulthood (marriage was the marker) and old age/death.
There was also less focus on accomplishment. The culture was god-centered. A big piece of one's emotional life was invested in honoring God. Careerism doesn't have much place in that world view. The rest of emotion was for spouse and children. In addition, survival itself was difficult. Moreover, the human life span tended to be shorter.
Those points Kristen Coan made today at the annual summer lecture series "Keeping Time in Early Modern Europe." The program is a joint effort by St. Philips in the Hills Episcopal Church, Tucson, Arizona and the University of Arizona Division for Late Medieval and Reformation Studies. Here is background information on the series.
Also, the rites of passage were gender-based. For women they were associated with her body: ability to bear children, actually bearing them, menopause and then death. For men, they were oriented toward becoming a member of the society, learning a trade, taking on the responsibility of a wife and family and death.
In our 21st century society, with our long life spans and the need or want to continue working, a new rite of passage could be marking the anniversaries of every year of staying employed or running a business post-65.