The meaning behind this special day
The word, "Quinceñera" can be split into two words: quince, meaning fifteen and añera or años meaning years, so translated quinceañera means fifteen years which refers to a girls fifteenth birthday. Not only is the fifteenth birthday party a momentous occasion is a young girls life, it is also a great honor. Every other birthday in life is nothing compared to the fifteenth.
Most people outside of the hispanic community might wonder why Hispanics celebrate Quinceañeras. Why have a church ceremony? Why wear such a big dress? Why are so many people involved? Well, for Hispanics, a Quinceañera is the equivalent of a Sweet Sixteen. It is a coming of age celebration meant to present the girl to the community as a young women and no longer a little girl. Though it is a huge celebration, a girls Quinceañera is not all play, there is a lot of work, spiritual growth and money involved.
The Quinceañera also consists of many people which includes the young women who dresses in a ball gown, which is traditionally pink. But now that times are changing many girls opt out of the simple pink and go for more extravagant dresses that can come in a variety of colors. She may also be wearing a tiara and special jewelry that have been blessed. Next comes the head chamberlain, which is the quinceañeras escort, and the rest of the chamberlains, all dressed in tuxedos. To accompany the chamberlains are "damas" or maids of honor, dressed in gowns that match the color theme that is chosen. The padrinos, also known as the godparents, and her parents are also very important for the ceremony. The typical Quinceañera begins with a ceremony at a church. The ceremony is usually referred to as "Misa de Accion de Gracias", meaning the "Mass of Thanksgiving". This ritual is a symbol of the girl's baptismal vows that were made by her parents as a baby, but now that she is old enough, she can acknowledge and reaffirm those vows herself.
From there the party moves to a hall which is where the real celebration begins. The hall will usually be decorated to match the colors that the girl has chosen for her special day. There will either be a live band, or a DJ, and most times a Mariachi band is also involved. The festivities begin with a dinner to get everyone settled in. From there one of the oldest traditions comes in, which is the father/daughter dance. It is a symbol of recognition that his daughter is no longer a little girl, but is now a young women and should be treated as such. Next comes the dance that the quinceañera and her group have come up with. Nowadays this dance is usually a cumbia, or a dance that would make the family proud, followed by a dance more fitting for the younger generations, such as dancing to a song by hip-hop or rap artists. The order of how everything is done can vary from family to family. But in my case, after my group and I had finished with our two dances, it was my turn to receive my special gift. This is something that is not always done, but in every Quinceañera I have ever been involved in, a special gift has been given. This gift can be anything, whereas in my case I received an elegant doll that had been specially made to look like me in my ball gown. This doll also served as " la ultima muñeca" or the last doll. This is the part where the girl cradles the doll like a baby and kisses it on the forehead, and just like everything else it marks the change of status of the young woman. Next comes the switching of the shoes. When the party begins, the young women is wearing either flats or very low heeled shoes. It is the padrinos job to replace the flats with heels, symbolizing the transition into womanhood. In my case I had already been wearing heels so I did not change that, but I did change my tiara from a very small, simple one to a bigger, more extravagant tiara. I also received two blessed necklaces, a blessed bracelet, and two blessed rings. Each also represented my transition into womanhood. It is also custom to make a toast sometime during the night. Though the quinceañera is only fifteen, she is allowed her first sip of champagne to celebrate the momentous occasion, but also as a symbol that she is now to be treated as a young woman, and not a child. After all the rituals are complete the rest of the night is left for everyone to have fun and dance.
Walk into a quinceañera and you might think everything is all fun and games, but as you have read, everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING is a symbol for how this young hispanic woman is no longer a child. This occasion is fun for the friends and family, but for the quinceañera it represents much more. It represents the beginning of a new life.