Quinceanera History: Wherever it's celebrated, Quinceanera takes a very important significance for the fifteen year old young man, her family, her church and those who love her. For many Hispanics and Latin Americans, it's a cultural, ethnic and religious marker. It's celebrated mostly in the Mexican culture.
Parents are known to have been saving for many years so they can offer the best ceremony to their daughters. Quinceanera is a celebration of the coming of age. For many, it means a change, a profound transformation from a girl with flats to a young woman in high heels. For sure, quinceanera is about beauty, hope, youth and continuity. More than anything, it's about fashion. It may be the equivalent of the Emmys and Oscars in the modest to rich Mexican families.
Of course, the first communions always have their own importance, but the quinceanera celebration is something else. Parents in the United States who escaped years of abject poverty in the motherland are known to go overboard for their daughter. They spend a fortune to give them everything they want. Educators, priests and some family members often complain about the waste of financial resources on such celebrations. They'd rather see that the parents save all the money spent on beverages, trio or bands, bracelets, chains, gowns, dresses, hall rental, limo etc. etc. be saved for the college education of this young man. If anything, all the money spent on Quinceanera could be a large down payment on the young woman's future house.
Nonetheless, It's hard for many Hispanics, (North, South and Central Americans to break free from this tradition passed down from the Mayans and Aztecs; a tradition that was almost destroyed by the Spanish conquistadors). It's worth saying that one of the most salient symbols of Quinceanera is the dress. The Quinceanera Dress may be the young woman's first formal adult wear. Please keep in mind that in many Hispanic cultures, after the fifteenth birthday, some levels of responsibility also mark the entrance of the young person into adulthood. Just like in the ancient days, she was to learn skills that she would use for the rest of her life. The dress shows a change in the status of the young woman. That's why most people call this cultural ritual "a coming-of-age ceremony." If the wedding gown makes a senora of the woman, the quinceanera dress makes a young adult, a senorita of the fifteen year old. It's her sweet fifteen.
The quincenera dress is obviously different from a social dress or a communion dress. By now, you will agree that the dress is very much a critical element of the celebrant's ceremony. What else can we observe? Along with the dress which is usually formal length, the celebrant will wear a headpiece called a diadema or tiara. She will also carry a matching ramo. The headpiece and ramo are prepared with lots of care by professional artists or experienced family members to keep the costs down.
Some of the items that the honoree will receive include the libro y rosario. To show her change from girl to adult, she will receive the adult size rosary which she will use to worship. She will also receive a Bible. Depending on her suspected preference, the bible may be in English or Spanish. A lot of the kids who were born in the United States prefer their English version to the Spanish language prayer book. Many family members, friends, padrinos and nina will give gifts of jewelry. They may want to rent a band or trio or the dance hall or a favorite DJ. Others may pitch in by buying some beverages of all kinds. The celebrant may be allowed to sip her first alcoholic beverages as a sign of adulthood. This may depend on the laws of the state and whether the family is liberal or conservative. Signs that show the celebrant has joined the adult world are: a ring, esclava, identity bracelet, earrings, and the religious medals, la medalla de oro, of the Virgen of Guadalupe. According to Norma Cantu who has written Chicana Traditions: Continuity and Change, some churches even ask the young woman to take classes. Keep in mind, all priests are not in favor of this celebration.
La fiesta Quincea?era, is a rite of passage for fifteen-year-old Latina girls. It is a community and family celebration full of tradition and meaning when a young girl is symbolically escorted into womanhood by her family and the event is witnessed by her community. The word itself comes from the Spanish quince, "fifteen," and a?os, "years." The origins of the Quincea?era are often attributed to the ancient customs of the Aztecs, but the ceremony and meaning behind it are similar to other ancient cultural initiation rites that occurred throughout the world. Fifteen was the age when many young women left their family home to become wives and then mothers, and almost as though passing through an invisible door, a Latina enters her Quincea?era as a child but emerges as a young woman with new responsibilities. Those who know and love her will see and treat her differently from that day forward.