What is a Quinceanera?

Girls in Latin American countries celebrate their Fiesta Quinceanera on their fifteenth birthday. It is a larger celebration than any other birthday because it marks the end of childhood and the beginning of young womanhood. Some countries observe the occasion with much more religious overtones than others. Here we will explore the components of a Quinceanera and some of the differences between countries.

Generally, the celebration begins with the lady in question being presented to guests in a lovely dress chosen for the occasion. She is made up with lots of make up, as this is supposed to be the first time she has worn any. If possible, the celebration takes place outside. A lavishly decorated arbor is set up for the father to escort his daughter through. Music is played and roses are presented to the father.

This is the point at which the festivities tend to change from country to country. In Argentina, the father and daughter dance a waltz. Food is served, dancing recommences, more food is served and a Karaoke Carnival may take place. In Cuba the party includes a choreographed group dance. Couples waltz around the Quinceanera (birthday girl) who is accompanied by a boy of her choice. In the Dominican Republic and Mexico, the day begins with Mass at the local Roman Catholic church. After church the birthday girl and 14 other couples (of her choosing) go to the location of the party. The Quinceanera is dressed in a pastel colored dress made of a gauze-like material. The guests of the party are meant to dress in long gowns and not overshadow the Quinceanera. In Mexico the birthday girl is accompanied by her parents, godparents and chamberlains when attending the party. She is presented with a blessed rosary from her godparents and a tiara to remind her that to her loved ones she will always be a princess. In Venezuela the Quinceanera is expected to perform the paso doble and the waltz with all the members of the procession.

Mexican girls are not allowed to dance in public until they turn 15. So the Quinceanera waltz is their first public dance. The ritual of the shoe may also take place. This is a ceremony in which the father changes his daughters shoes from flats to heels to symbolize her arrival at womanhood. A ritual of the doll is also common. The mother makes a speech and gives her daughter her last doll. Both rituals are always emotional for the family, leaving everyone in tears.

In Argentina the ceremony of the 15 candles is performed after dessert is served. The activity entails the girl delivering 15 candles to people whom she considers most influential in her development. There is often a speech involved dedicated to each of the 15 people recognized. Each candle symbolizes a particular memory or moment shared with the person, and one of the years the girl has lived.

The planning of a Quinceanera is a cross between planning a wedding and a birthday party. There is no groom and no grooms family, but there is a birthday cake and formal dress. Most of the time he parents of the birthday girl pay for the entire celebration, although godparents are expected to contribute. Specially printed invitations are ordered and a multi-tiered cake is made. A fancy dress dress is sought out or made, and it is always in a pastel color to signify the girlish years being left behind. The family plans a lavish banquet with several courses of food, drink and of course music. Princess themed Quinceaneras are the most common, however as the world becomes more modern, other themes have become popular.

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