Kiwi stars Eliza, Lorde, Jordie and Lydia are all preparing to turn 21, but there won't be a yard glass in sight

Eliza McCartney says one glass of wine usually lasts her the night.
LAWRENCE SMITH/FAIRFAX NZ

Eliza McCartney says one glass of wine usually lasts her the night.

They're the bright young things who are taking New Zealand to new heights on the world stage.

Lorde, and sporting superstars Lydia Ko, Eliza McCartney, rugby player Jordie Barrett and All White Alex Rufer, will celebrate their 21st birthdays over the next 12 months.

And for many on the cusp of adulthood, the traditional practice of downing a yard glass of beer, 21 shots of liquor, or some other large booze-fuelled celebration are being rejected for more restrained affairs. 

Will Lorde celebrate her 21st in a trendy New York restaurant like her 20th, or go for something a little more low-key?
BEVAN READ/FAIRFAX NZ

Will Lorde celebrate her 21st in a trendy New York restaurant like her 20th, or go for something a little more low-key?

McCartney, for one, will be going easy on the bottle when her 21st comes around on December 11.

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Eliza McCartney says she's learned the importance of celebrating milestones during her athletic career.
KAI PFAFFENBACH/REUTERS

Eliza McCartney says she's learned the importance of celebrating milestones during her athletic career.

"It's safe to say I'll be skipping that part of it," she said. 

"It's not really my scene, I couldn't handle that at all. One glass of wine usually lasts me the night."

The pole vaulter, who charmed the nation in winning bronze at the Rio Olympics, said there were still expectations to drink to excess for many celebrating the milestone. 

Lydia Ko will turn 21 in April next year.
SEAN M HAFFEY/GETTY IMAGES

Lydia Ko will turn 21 in April next year.

"With teenagers and milestone parties there's still the expectation it will be a big night. I've been to couple recently,  close friends' ones, not that I've been partying out late, but think there is still that expectation that the 21st is a really big night.

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"I think you've got to have one birthday that's pretty exciting. Regardless of the fact it doesn't actually mean much turning 21 in New Zealand any more it's still important to have something to really celebrate."

 
Eliza McCartney, pictured with partner Lukas Walton-Keim, will be celebrating her 21st with family and friends in ...
LAWRENCE SMITH/FAIRFAX NZ

Eliza McCartney, pictured with partner Lukas Walton-Keim, will be celebrating her 21st with family and friends in December. But there won't be a yard glass in sight.

In years gone by, the milestone marked the point when someone reached adulthood and was finally ready to leave the parent's nest and make their own way in the world.

Buying ciggies and alcohol, owning a house and getting married are all things that can be done years before turning 21 but the tradition has remained regardless, albeit in a tamer fashion.

Hospitality NZ advocacy and policy manager Dylan Firth said while there were still plenty of bars and venues being hired out for 21st parties, but changes to liquor laws had put an end to most people downing a yard glass while at a licensed venue.

Wellington Phoenix and All Whites footballer Alex Rufer may still be planning his 21st, which is less than a month away.
HANNAH PETERS/GETTY IMAGES

Wellington Phoenix and All Whites footballer Alex Rufer may still be planning his 21st, which is less than a month away.

"You don't want to get caught out having a whole lot of pissed 21-year-olds," he said.

Instead, bars would be ensuring there was lots of food available and Firth said parents were usually pretty good at helping keep things under control. 

As the population grows, the number of people turning 21 is also increasing: this year, more than 69,000 will turn 21, while five years ago 63,000 people reached the milestone.

Taranaki real estate agent Caleb Harvey, 20, has chosen to save money for travel over having a large 21st party.
ANDY JACKSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Taranaki real estate agent Caleb Harvey, 20, has chosen to save money for travel over having a large 21st party.

While 21 used to be the magical barrier between being looked after by your parents and being free to do what you liked, that is certainly not the case not the case now.

Taranaki woman Demi Bocock, who is preparing for her birthday in two months time, is planning to have a traditional 21st with a ceremonial key, a yardie, and "lots of family and friends drinking and partying".

But she said that had become more of an exception rather than the norm, and it was difficult to keep parties contained to small affairs due to social media.

How many All Blacks are likely to get invited to Jordie Barrett's 21st?
GETTY IMAGES

How many All Blacks are likely to get invited to Jordie Barrett's 21st?

"Most of the traditional 21sts have gone because it's so hard to keep a down-low party profile and also the price of things has changed," she said.

With his birthday coming up in October, real estate agent Caleb Harvey said it wasn't likely to be as big as some of his friends might be hoping.

"I will be having the yard glass as per tradition, but probably a not-so-big party," he said.

"I am very much family orientated so it will be a low key dinner at a nice place on my birthday day and then some drinks at my place with some close friends and probably head out for some dinner, that will be the weekend before it."

Harvey said his mother had made him the traditional key, and he would be asking for money to put towards travel.

He said there was an expectation and pressure to put on a big party where the liquor flowed. 

"Friends are always looking for an excuse to get pissed," he said.

For the last four years, Sunita Martin of Flash Mob Entertainment has been visiting 21sts around Taranaki with her photo booths and said the traditions of a 21st birthday party were still alive and well.

Celebrations are also often associated with drunken behaviour and not many would get through the infamous yard glass of ale without throwing up.

One event caterer said they stayed away from "that drunken mess" when asked if they were often hired for party celebrations. 

Martin said she had noticed parties outside of New Plymouth were usually bigger than ones around the city, and the country towns tended to follow the traditions closer.

Some families were likely to hire out a venue or a hall, invite a large crowd of friends and family and have a large cake.

"It tends to depend on the family," she said.

UPCOMING 21STS

* All White Alex Rufer (June 12)

* Musician extraordinaire Lorde, aka Ella Yelich-O'Connor (November 7)

* Pole vault queen Eliza McCartney (December 11)

* All Black and Hurricanes maestro Jodie Barrett (February 17, 2018)

* Lydia Ko (April 24, 2018)

 - Sunday Star Times

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