The "sweet 16" birthday is celebrated in the United States for several reasons. In the United States and Canada, teens often can get their driver's licenses at age 16. It is also considered to be the age of consent in many parts of the United States and is viewed as an important milestone in growing up.
Sweet 16 birthday parties typically are held for girls, but more boys are having parties to celebrate turning 16. Party stores and websites carry gifts and favors specifically targeted to teen boys.
In the Latin American counterpart to sweet 16, girls celebrate the 15th birthday with a quinceanera party and ceremony. In Judaism, girls are considered to be spiritually mature at age 12, and they celebrate their bat mitzvah, while boys celebrate their bar mitzvah at age 13. In the early 20th century, Jewish girls traditionally celebrated their 16th birthdays, because bat mitzvahs were not publicly celebrated. The 16th birthday is still considered an important milestone.
Several songs and movies in popular culture have commemorated the sweet-16th birthday tradition. The 1984 movie "Sixteen Candles" told the story of a girl turning 16. MTV produced a reality show from 2005 to 2008 called "My Super Sweet 16," featuring a song by Hilary Duff called "Sweet Sixteen." Recording artist Neil Sedaka released "Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen" in 1961.