In signifies it will be the last she will ever receive, and the end of her childhood. Most families choose to get a doll who is clothed in a replica of the original dress as a reminder of her childhood and the transition to the night when she became a young lady. These dolls can be given to a younger family member or kept as a memory (DaVinci. par. 11). Not only does this signify the end of a chapter, but it is the start of a new one.
Leaving the old behind means having new experienced. The changing of the shoes is not a religious tradition; however, it is another representation of the age change. Typically, the girl should have never worn heeled shoes before this day, since they are considered an accessory for young women. It is normal to wear some type of flats, like Converse, through the ceremony and during the day. Later that day, at the reception, she will have a “Cambio de Zapatillas” done by her father/father figure, to show he is aware and accepts the new role in his daughter’s life (DaVinci. par. 8). Once the zapatillas are on, the true fun begins.
The entertainment starts off by having a brindis, or toast, which takes place right before the baile (dance). It is meant to welcome the cumpleañera to the start of her first night of dancing and wish her well on her new chapter of life as well as sharing old memories. The brindis can be given by a court member, a padrinos or a family member or friend. Since it should be the first taste of champagne, it is traditional to have specially decorated toast glasses for the event. They are usually reserved for the court, family, and padrinos. The rest of the guest are given plastic flutes for their champagne while kids drink soda from plastic cups (DaVinci. par. 10). While these events are considered the “entertainment”, they certainly did not seem so in the previous planning months.
To make this day happen, it takes extensive preparations over a long period of time. A significant choice to make in that time is who will be part of the court of honor. It is made up of 14 friends or family members, symbolizing each year of the quinceañeras’ life. Depending on her, the court can consist of only males, less than fourteen, or have no court at all. The males in the court are chambelanes (escorts), and the females are damas (ladies). The young man whom the Quinceañera chooses as her dance partner is the chambelan de honor. Most times it is a friend or a family member, usually a cousin. Since girls were not allowed to date before they were ‘of age’, having a boyfriend as her chambelan was not a possibility. However, times have evolved, and it is now common to have a boyfriend take the role of chambelan de honor (Hill and Daniels 147). With those titles, comes responsibilities.
The biggest highlight of a Quince is the dress, which is why most honorees choose to have the help of her court while deciding on one. Just like wedding dresses, they are accommodated to the taste of the person wearing it. Everything from the cake to the decorations are focused around the dress. Traditionally, the dress is Cinderella-like and mainly white, accompanied with another color to differentiate from a wedding dress. over time, it has changed to be anything from a two-piece, a mermaid style, or a short dress. The court of honor wears matching dresses of the style and color of the Quinceañera choice. Their escorts wear suits or tuxedos to match. The damas guide the honoree in picking her perfect dress and they decide on the color and style of their own dresses, as well as making sure they match with their chambelan (Hill and Daniels 148). After much deciding between two colors, the time arrives when the attention is on them.
By this time in the night, the traditional event are almost over, and the guest are ready to let loose. Before that can take place however, there are two formal dances. The first, is the father/daughter dance, popularly done to Es Mi Nina Bonita by Vicente Fernandez. Then the Quinceañera is passed from her father to her chambelan de honor. This second dance is performed by the Quinceañera and her court members. Two popular songs for this are el Vals de las Mariposas by Cheyo Carillo, and Tiempo de Vals by Chayanne, though this choice is made by the festejada, and can dance to any song, in any language, that she wishes to. It is usually choreographed by a professional, or by an expert family member or friend. They will be the first dances of the evening and will open up the dance floor for the rest of the night (Luna par. 6). After the waltzes, a lot of the pressure is off, and the carefree fun can begin.
The honoree is gifted a few items she can wear that go along with the meaning of the day. A religious object which the fifteen-year-old can wear even after the celebration is a medalla gifted by a madrina. Those of Mexican decent will usually chose a medalla of Virgin Mary. The back of it is usually engraved with initials and a date. This can be worn for as long as the chain and pendant last and therefore serves as a symbol of the long-lasting faith the young lady accepted (Hill and Daniels 148). Of course, no necklace would be gifted without a matching item.
Another piece of jewelry received that night would be a ring. It is worn on the left hand as a symbol of the Quinceañera religious beliefs. It is supposed to be worn until marriage, however, this tradition has slowly become forgotten and the ring tends to be stored away as a memory. In some cases, a bracelet is substituted or accompanies the ring. The style and material of these items vary, it can be a matching set, include a name, the number fifteen or be a family heirloom (Hill and Daniels 149). These are the “traditional” padrinos gifts; the rest of the guest can pick from anything in the store for the cumpleañera to receive.
Most families of Spanish descent have either been a part of a quinceañera, had a family member who had one or at least attended one. Anahi Perez’s quinceañera followed all the traditions above. This event is important enough to Hispanic families that even living states apart is not reason enough to not attend. Anahi stated her reason for a quince was, “My mom did not get the chance to have one because of lack of money and wanted me to experience this cultural event. I also wanted a chance to have all my friends and family in one place on my special day.” It was a lively, joyful experience to get to follow along with for the months before and to see come together on the actual day.
Even though this event has existed for decades, it continues to be celebrated by those of Spanish descent and is constantly adapted to new traditions. For example, the surprise dance had been a pretty recent addition. Now, some males are choosing to participate in their own “Quinceañera”. The point of a quinceañera is to celebrate religion and the transition into adulthood. However, in the Aztec rituals, males usually chose to learn how to hunt and provide for their family, which could be the reason why men never got the chance to experience a coming of age celebration for themselves. Nowadays, some males are choosing to change that piece of history and have a fifteen party. This choice could be based on many reasons, like being an only child, wanting to adopt the culture, or simply because they want to honor God (Hernandez). Just like this celebration is spreading through Hispanic males, it continues to take place in America.
Traditions live in the hearts of people, and quinceañeras are no exception, as they are becoming more widespread among immigrants in the United Stated. Since many families in Mexico did not have the amount of money required for such a sumptuous event, the celebration was kept as a small dinner with family or a humble party. Now having the ability to give their kids a lavish fiesta, they are becoming far more common (Reyes par. 1). This celebration is carried in the souls of those who share the culture and will continued to be passed on.
Celebrar a Quinceañera is a rite of passage in which Hispanic families go through great lengths to prepare. There are many coming of age ceremonies, like this one, through out various cultures. These traditions are a time for family and friends to come together and festejar. From generation to generation, these traditions are passed down to preserve and celebrate our culture and heritage.
My full name is Jaqueline Perez I grew up hearing about quinceañeras and the reason for their celebration. I chose to base this paper off of a cultural event since it was a topic that, while heard of, not many people know much about. My mom and grandmothers did not get to experience a quinceañera because of the expense. However, my cousin Anahi decided to experience her own; after seeing her enthusiasm for the day, I found her perfect basis for my paper.