Keeping Quinceanera Traditions Alive
Latina womanhood begins with a party to end all parties!
In every little girl's upbringing, there is a special moment to which she looks forward with excitement and pride. It could be a bat mitzvah for a young Jewish lady, a communion for a Catholic girl or she could be making her society debut. When a girl reaches her fifteenth birthday in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Central and South America, she celebrates her Quinceanera, and her entire family treats her like a princess for her special day.
Planning begins up to a year in advance of the big day, and everyone is involved. The family priest will perform a Quinceanera ceremony in church. The girl's baptismal godparents will oversee the spiritual celebration, and her many friends and relatives will be delighted for the recognition she will receive as she makes the transition from girl to young lady in everyone's eyes.
The only rite of passage that comes close to Quinceanera traditions is a wedding, with all the pomp and glamor, and the party atmosphere that follows the somewhat more subdued religious atmosphere. There is a significant dress, just as with a wedding, and can be just as expensive and unique as a wedding gown. Flowers and decorations are selected to match the color scheme of the festivities, a reception is held at which guests will be served a grand meal and there will be much dancing and merriment for all in attendance. Often, a live band or DJ are hired for the evening and the atmosphere is energetic and fun.
Historically speaking, Quinceanera traditions date back to ancient Mexican society. The origins can be traced back to the Aztecs in 500BC where it was used as a form of initiation to instruct and reinforce important cultural ideals. These days, turning fifteen years of age is acknowledged with the Quinceanera and the ceremony is a reaffirmation of the baptismal vows made by her parents. Now, as then, a candle is lit during the ceremony to signify this.
One of the sweetest and most popular Quinceanera traditions is when the young lady gets to dance with her father in front of everyone. Usually a very special song will be chosen, often with Spanish lyrics, and many a father has found himself teary on the dance floor with his newly come-of-age daughter. Additionally, the guest of honor will wear flat shoes at first and will be presented with a pair of elegant, heeled shoes to signify her more grown-up status.
The young lady celebrating her Quinceanera will make a presentation of a porcelain doll to her younger sister, symbolizing the last of her toys, another representation of moving forward toward adulthood.
With much symbolism and significance, gifts are an important part of Quinceanera traditions. They denote the young lady's acceptance by the church, by God and by the congregation (her family and friends) as a woman. She wears a tiara as a sign of leaving childhood behind and facing the challenges that lay ahead and she is also presented with either a bracelet or ring (or both) representing the unending circle of life. Earrings are a reminder to listen and pay heed to the word of God and the world around her, a cross or medallion signifies faith and a rosary or prayer book are religious resources to always remind the young lady to remember her devotion to God.
Even in the New Millennium, Hispanic girls take their Quinceanera traditions seriously. Sadly, the concept seems to be fading somewhat but many Latin American families encourage the culture to remain alive and well. By the time a fifteenth birthday approaches, the plans are well under way and the community get into the spirit and have a wonderful time.