A Quinceanera (the term refers both to the celebration and to the girl
who has turned 15) is similar in concept to a debutante's "coming out
party" in other countries. The celebration is a means of acknowledging
that a young woman has reached sexual maturity and is now an adult,
ready to assume additional family and social responsibilities. In
addition, the celebration is intended to reaffirm religious faith, good
morals, and the virtues of traditional family values.
On the night before her 15th birthday, the girl about to be honored is
serenaded by a mariachi band in front of her house. The Quinceanera
ceremony usually takes place the following Saturday.
The Quinceanera celebration has all of the grandeur of a large church
wedding, and begins with the Misa de accion de gracias (thanksgiving
Mass). The girl being honored ("quinceanera") arrives in church dressed
in a fancy full-length gown, usually white or pale pink in color,
together with a matching headdress and an elaborate bouquet. She is
accompanied by her parents, godparents and members of her "Court",
consisting of several young women called damas (maids of honor) and
several young men called chamberlains (escorts).
At the conclusion of the mass, the quinceanera places her bouquet on the
altar and the girl's family and friends pass out small commemorative
favors to the guests in attendance. All then proceed to a banquet hall
for a festive dinner and dance reception.
After a sumptuous feast, the music and dancing begins. The first dance
is a waltz danced with the quinceanera and her father. Next, members of
her Court are introduced and then the godparents have their first dance.
The dance floor is then opened for all guests, with men taking turns
dancing with the quinceanera. It is customary for the quinceanera to
receive the following traditional gifts for her ceremony, each of which
have a special symbolic meaning:
TIARA (symbolizing that the girl is a princess before God)
BRACELET (symbolizing the unending circle of life)
EARRINGS (reminder to listen to Gods word)
CROSS, BIBLE & ROSARY (representing religious faith)
During the reception, there is a "crowning ceremony" where a parent or
godparent replaces the headpiece worn by the quinceanera with the tiara.
A scepter (emblem of authority and responsibility) is also presented to
her, in recognition of her passage into adulthood.
At the reception, there is a customary toast to the quinceanera, and the
guests offer her their congratulations and best wishes. This is followed
by the cutting of a multi-tiered birthday cake decorated in a color
matching the quinceanera's gown.
The celebration culminates with the festejada, a dance to a traditional
waltz by the quinceanera with one of her chamberlains (escorts).