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When the girls and boys reach sixteen or seventeen years old, they join the group of “the young people”. They remain in this age category until they marry. This rite of passage is called “becoming a youth”, mutiletan sartu, in Navarra. The passage from child to youth is marked by certain facts affecting behaviour, the most important of which is they no longer play games.

Until the mid 20th century, this transition involved changes to the very clothes worn. It was the time when the young men began to wear long trousers. Nowadays, this change in the way of dressing is irrelevant as children wear long trousers from a very early age. In the past, once they reached this age, girls stopped wearing socks and started using stockings and mid-heeled shoes. They also stopped wearing their hair in ponytails, plaits and ringlets, with ribbons, txoriak, and started to wear their hair loose or in a bun. When young girls were around 16, they would put up their hair and cover it with a headscarf to show they were grown up (Abadiano-B).

In traditional society, youths would enter the world of work as apprentices learning a trade or as servants; they could represent their homestead at neighbourhood meetings and take part in communal work, auzolana. They left the children’s benches at church and sat in a place further away from the altar.

The period of life in education has been significantly extended since the mid 20th century. Therefore, the years as youths now coincide, in the majority of cases, with those spent studying degrees and professions.

On the other hand, if childhood is characterised by play activity, the time of youths is noted for interest in romantic relationships. The singing in the round, festivities and dances in their many different forms would be places where young people of both sexes would meet.

On the Mediterranean side of the watershed in the southern Basque Country (lying within Spain), young people traditionally met up in local mocerías [youth associations], which to a certain extent guided the typical activities of that age. This youth associationism is most clearly seen in the religious sphere; during the first half of the 20th century, pious congregations exclusively for young women and men proliferated in the parishes of both the northern and southern Basque Country.

Basque male youths were required to do military service, which meant leaving their natural environment for a long period of time, which marked a stage of their life.

The moceria [youth association]. Herriko gazteria

The local young people of a similar age and with shared aspirations would spontaneously spend time together and form the mocería of the town or village. "The mocería" has become a specific social group with its own patterns of behaviour.

The main activity of the mocería during the year was to organise the feast day celebration of the town’s or neighbourhood’s patron saint. When the young people organised those festivities, they were expressing their status in society; organising the dance provided them with the opportunity to spend time with the young women and they practiced the arts of courtship when singing in the round.

When they married, they were no long youths and anyone over 30 who had not married was known as a mozo viejo ["old youth”].

Outfits and headwear

The information gathered in the surveyed locations generally show that single people worse much more colourful clothes in the past than married people would, as the latter tended to dress with more restraint and used dark colours.

As regards the men, little information was given about different garments for single and married males.

In Zerain (G), at the start of the 20th century, when the youths went on a pilgrimage, they wore a brightly-coloured scarf around their neck. Once this custom disappeared, men used to wear a gingham scarf, known as a “grass scarf”, around their neck when doing certain jobs.

In Obanos (N), single men wore white canvas shoes on Sundays, while married men would wear black or blue.

The dance. Dantza

Dances on Sundays and bank holidays were held in the public square and ended at dusk in the surveyed locations. They would only carry on until midnight on the festivities to celebrate the feast day of the patron saint.

Start age

Girls began to dance around two years before the boys, at an age that ranged between fourteen and eighteen years depending on the location. The initiation to this entertainment would take place once they had received the Second Communion or Solemn Communion that was when they were twelve. It marked the end of children’s games and was the rite of passage from childhood to adolescence.

They started dancing as a “game”, of a different type and purpose than children’s ones, where both sexes began to mix as they had mainly played separately up until then.

Compulsory military service. Soldadutza

Once they turned eighteen or twenty, the young men were required to join the armed forces for a certain period of time. There were very few young men who were spared this obligation in the past. Apart from the cases of a declared illness, grounds for exemption were physical defects such as myopia, flat feet or short stature; the only sons of widows also did not have to do military service.

Presentation to society

The daughters of the nobility or the bourgeoisie celebrated their passage from adolescence to youth at seventeen or eighteen years old, by means of a "coming-out" party to present them to society. Those young women could attend the adult parties and dances, but were required to dress formally.

Youth religious associations

Religious associations exclusively for young people were run in most parishes until the 1970s. The two most common ones were: the one popularly known as “The Daughters of Maria” for girls and “The Luises” for the boys. Both associations were for the age category of single people.