21st Key Celebrations: Making Birthdays Special With A Piece Of Our Cultural Heritage

May 10, 2021

21st Key Celebrations: Making Birthdays Special With A Piece Of Our Cultural Heritage

Birthdays are a very special celebration world wide. Right? It’s that one time of the year where people don’t want to miss out on the chance of being the center of attention and/or having the whole day to themselves! Certain ages are considered “benchmarks” (say) ages 16 (famously known as ‘sweet sixteen’), 18, 21, 30 (and so on) which are considered special.

Here we’re going to put a special emphasis on the 21st Birthday celebration that is widely considered very important, (like a stepping stone) in a newly-turned adult person’s life - in different countries, notably in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, USA, etc.


What’s really special about turning 21?

The importance of celebrating the 21st birthday is said to date back to medieval times, when it was considered a turning point of a boy’s life who would be groomed for knighthood.

However, the gender exclusivity is no longer valid and both boys and girls are included for the celebration. Since the 21st birthday is regarded as a significant landmark celebration in New Zealand, they have a unique ritual known as "handing off of Key" that renders the occasion extra sweet and memorable.

21st birthdays are quite a lavish custom for New Zealanders, which involves mouth watering delectables; Barbecue getting the prime focus of the custom and a must during any recreational activity, followed by malt, wine, or champagne, sausages, ribs, and steaks. Other dishes, such as the party finger foods are a special delight that are highly anticipated.

Aside from the dishes, there are also traditions that are observed throughout the party, such as: The speeches after cutting the cake. After cutting the cake, family members are supposed to send a brief message to the birthday girl or boy.

Giving the birthday celebrant the key to the family home means that he/she/they will now be allowed to come and go as he/she/they please.

Usually the parents deliver a speech, either before or after handing over the “21st Key” to their beloved child(ren). Many countries around the world, including New Zealand, have been commemorating the 21st birthday with a key as a symbolic gesture.

It's crucial to remember that although cultural customs evolve over time, their true essence stays constant.

We may assume that both the 18th and 21st birthdays are important landmarks in a person's existence, and a dose of celebrating can bring more fond memories to the celebrants' hearts.


History Of The 21st Key

21st birthdays were significantly observed in the 19th century, but they started gaining momentum by New Zealand families in the 20th century. The concept of giving the (21st) “Key to the door” - the freedom to come and go without parental supervision - started taking the shape from 1930.

Decorated keys were given as presents, and were featured on cards and the birthday cake. Sometimes guests would sign a large gold key, which was given as a keepsake to the birthday person. In the 2000s, within Māori families a carved key or carved pare (lintel) was still a treasured 21st-birthday gift.

Taking a special studio photograph is a common practise. A less-refined custom was to drink a yard-glass (a tall glass holding around 1.4 litres) of beer, often spiked with something stronger.


Adding a jewel to the gifting experience

We, at Aeon Giftware, have specialised, for over 20 years, in making the 21st celebration memorable AND UNIQUE, thanks to our range of (large-sized) keys. These artefacts are made using standard quality materials, infused with the values of our century-old traditional designs (with a touch of love)!

Although deeply embellished with the modern-day outlook, our designs have been significantly inspired from the age-old Maori heritage, to make your celebrations extra-special and heart-warming.

Sharing the best sellers below to spoil you with choice.


Manaia The Guardian Spirit 21st + Celebration Key

Customisable for any birthday occasion, this beauty comes with a frame for a self-insertable photo and a removable stand (optional). There is space for you to mention any message (eg., 21st + the name of the celebrant) near the photo.

The Key also comes with instructions as to how to insert the image or photo. 

The optional stand slides in the back and clips in place.

You can order this piece here:


We also have another specimen showing off the Maui Fish Hook, and you can order this one at:



Polynesian 21st & Celebration Key

If you’re looking forward to surprising your dear one one their special 21st birthday, this Polynesian beauty can redefine any occasion to a whole new level of “surprise” for them. 

This piece is customisable for any occasion. It comes with a self-insertable photo-frame and the key comes with instructions on how to place it. 

The (optional) stand is removable and it slides in the back and clips in place.

Order now at https://aeongiftware.co.nz/collections/21st-keys/products/21st-celebration-key-polynesian


A Brief Innuendo on the Polynesian Culture

Polynesian culture was highly influenced by natural phenomenon's. Their languages are rich in vocabulary, expressing about the stars, tides, waves, landforms and other phenomena, reflecting their constant study and awareness of the natural environment.

Polynesians were often fascinated with the mystical or supernatural world, which they saw as an integral part of life rather than a distinct form of perception. As a consequence, Polynesian societies established a clear bond between their people, community and the cosmos.

Myths and legends on creation stories told about the precedence of the land, sky, the seas, including their people. Various legends portrayed natural events, while historical sources also represented the migrations of people before they arrived at the island on which they were located, their journeys along the way, and the evolution of the civilization after settlement, with various degrees of mythological elaboration.

Shipping Information

Turnaround for dispatch is 5 working days from ordering.

North Island delivery is an additional 1-2 days,

South Island is 1-3 days,

and rural is up to 5 days.

If you require your key urgently, please add the date you require it by in the additional information field or contact us ASAP through the details given here.

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