1. It’s Not Just a Birthday Party:
A quinceanera is much more than a birthday party; it is a religious ceremony and rite of passage. Quinceanera’s mark a young Hispanic girls’ transition into womanhood and serve not only to honor the birthday girl, but also her parents, family, and godparents, who are giving thanks for a completed childhood. Much like a wedding, a quinceanera celebration begins with a religious ceremony called a Misa de Accion de Gracias, translated, a mass to give thanks, and concludes with an extravagant party attended by family and friends.
2. They Weren’t Always Extravagant:
“The origins of [the quinceanera] are shrouded in the history of the Mexican people. As with so many things Mexican, it combines both Spanish-Catholic traditions with a rich Aztec and indigenous heritage.” Originally the quinceanera ceremony was when a young woman received gifts and elements for her dowry and instructions from her mother and other women of the community in the duties and responsibilities of womanhood. During colonial times, this simple ceremony transitioned into a formal social gathering at which girls of marriageable age came out into society.
3. It Celebrates Cultural Traditions:
Throughout its history, different regions and families have added their local customs and traditions shaping the modern day quinceanera and making no two celebrations exactly alike. However, here are a few of the cultural traditions still being followed today. An elaborate gown, traditionally pink or white, adorned with accessories given by parents or godparents, historically jewelry and a tiara. Fourteen damas (maids of honor) and paired chambelanes (escorts) to accompany the young woman and symbolize the fourteen past years of life, often consisting of siblings, relatives, and close family friends. Finally, an extravagant cake serves as the focal point of the celebration.
4. They are Becoming More Modern:
Today’s quinceaneras, due to their rising popularity and Americanized aspects, have become extravagant and over-the-top affairs. As businesses typically reserved for weddings have expanded to market to quinceaneras as well, the small and traditional familial church celebration has grown as well. Many quinceaneras now rival weddings in both cost and grandeur, encompassing many of the same elements: dress/accessories, cake, photography/videography, catering, venue, favors and of course gifts. However, just as when planning a wedding, one must remember the original purpose of the event.
5. It Remains an Important and Honored Event:
As mentioned above, the purpose of the quinceanera is to celebrate the young girl’s’ transition into womanhood. While the ceremony and party that follows have become much more elaborate, the quinceanera remains an important family event with guests sometimes traveling thousands of miles to attend. It is a ceremony steeped in tradition and meaning, and planning should be consistent with this event rich history.