Quinceañeras, a rite and a passage

Quinceañera is a community and family celebration full of tradition and meaning. The word itself comes from the Spanish “quince” -fifteen- and “años” -years-.

The ceremony and meaning behind it are similar to other ancient cultural initiation rites that occurred throughout the world.  While Western nations and cultures have their Sweet 16 and Debutante Balls, the Quinceanera is the Latin culture’s take on those celebrations and honours the young females of their families.

The Quinceañera is a long-held tradition with roots dating back to civilizations of ancient Mesoamerica and is more like a rite of passage.  Fifteen marked the age at which girls became women and it was considered a marrying age. It marked an important milestone in a girl’s development from a teen into a woman, from girlhood to womanhood.

This culturally rich celebration is both a religious and social event and is celebrated in Mexico, Latin America, and the Caribbean, as well as in Latino communities in the United States and elsewhere.

Tradition states that the girl herself must wear a ball gown in the color of her choice.

The celebration begins with a mass attended by the girl and her family and godparents. Mass is followed by a reception, or party, to which friends and relatives are invited. The reception features food, music, and dancing, with the girl accompanied by her court of “damas” -maids of honour- and “chambelanes” -chamberlains-.

Both  two parts—the mass and the fiesta—and both events are filled with symbolic gestures and moments: 

First is a Bible, often adorned in fancy cloth, bestowed by the priest, as a symbol of the importance of God’s word to her life.

Second is a flower bouquet, usually in the same colours as the celebrant’s dress and that is left at the foot of the statue of the Virgin Mary.

Finally, a tiara symbolizes that the Quinceanera is both a daughter of God and a princess in the eyes of those who love her.

Non-religious elements are equally important in this celebration.

There is a ceremony of the Last Doll, typically dressed in clothing similar to the Quinceanera’s gown, symbolizing the last doll she will ever play with and is usually passed on to her younger sister sometime during or after the party.

And there is the presentation of the high-heeled shoes. During this ceremony, she changes from the slippers or flats that she wore to the Mass and at the beginning of the party, as well as more formal jewellery are additional signs of the transition from a little girl.

Shoes and crowns play a pivotal role in the birthday girl’s transformation in the eyes of the community from a girl to a young woman.

No matter what status a family holds, a Quinceanera is celebrated because it was a landmark birthday.

There is an HBO documentary series that aims to add a little more depth to that perception, produce by Tommy Mottola and Mexican Singer Talia that can take you inside the modern quinceañera, encapsulating the festive spirit of the milestone event by showcasing the stories of five young women preparing to embrace the adult world.

The documentary profiles an East Los Angeles teen boxer, a transgender teen and two girls who perform in rodeo show together, allowing them to share their unique stories while embracing their culture, and overcoming challenges.

#Mexicoeschingon #chingon #Mexicancuisine #Mexicanfood #Mexicanculture #Mexicomiamor  

#quinceañera #quinceañeraparty


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