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Quinceanera Traditions

Narayani Karthik Feb 13, 2020
Quinceanera is a famous hispanic tradition that marks the beginning of adulthood in an adolescent female. This story provides information regarding this tradition.
The journey of life from an innocent childhood to an aesthetic adulthood is an exciting phase in the life of a girl. The physical changes, the sudden hormonal surges, and the maturing mind rush together marking the beginning of the adulthood. The feeling is special and this unique tradition makes it all the more an alluring experience for the girl.
The origin of this tradition goes back to the ancient Aztec culture, when the marking of adulthood in a girl transformed her into a young woman with responsibilities. The word 'quinceanera' was derived from the Spanish word quince which means fifteen. This tradition is prominently practiced in countries like Mexico, Puerto Rica, and Cuba.

The Tradition in Mexico

Mexico is a country with a rich culture, which is a blend of Aztec, Mayan, and Spanish cultures. One of the famous traditions of the Mexican culture is the quinceanera tradition, which has been a Christian adaptation of the Aztec culture. This custom signifies the "coming of age" in a female, thereby stating that she has attained the sexual maturity and is now eligible for marriage. This tradition starts with the most important ceremony - The Mass, followed by a grand reception. Exhibits like Pinata are gifted to the little children in the ceremony and the function ends with an exquisite banquet.

The Thanksgiving Mass

This starts with a mass prayer in church. The celibate girl is usually dressed in a white frilly ball gown and is gifted accessories like a tiara, bracelet, earrings, and necklaces. The white color of the gown symbolizes purity and chastity. She also wears a headpiece before the prayer starts. This headpiece signifies her importance before the Almighty.
She is then handed a rosary and a Bible. The quinceanera Bible is an important asset for the girl, which is intended to remind her to follow the Lord's word in all walks of her life. Both the Bible and the rosary stand for her faith in God.
The girl is then accompanied by 14 damas (the maids accompanying the girl who are mostly females close to fifteen or may have turned fifteen), and are made to sit in an honor seat near the altar.
The Mass also known as Misa de acción de gracias starts with a thanks prayer that seeks the blessings for the celebrated girl for her coming of age and the new challenges that await her in life ahead. Usually, these prayers are conducted by the padrinos who accompany the girl to the church.
The most important moment that ought to be captured is the time when the girl gives the flower bouquet to Virgin Mary - Our Lady of Guadaloupe after the prayer. As the ceremony proceeds, the parents place the tiara on the girl's head, marking the responsibilities that would come later in life.

The Reception

Once the Mass is over, there is a grand reception in the honor of the girl who is now referred as quinceanera. Mexican girls are forbidden to dance in public events before entering pubescence. After the coronation, the girl is accompanied for her first dance by her father or her brother or any family member or friend, who plays the role of a chamberlain.
Before the dance, the flat shoes of the girl are replaced by a pair of heeled sandals, marking the transition of a girl to a woman. This dance is often known as the First Waltz.
After the dance, a traditional Las Mananitas is sung by a Mariachi band at the time of cake cutting, marking the celebration of the birthday with its special meaning. Quinceanera cake is the major highlight of the reception. The cake is usually a huge one that has staircase leading from one tier to another.
At the top of the cake sits the girl's gift - A pretty quinceanera doll! The cake cutting ceremony is an eye-catching ceremony when a customary toast is raised for the well-being of the girl. Las Mananitas is also played when the girl leaves for the church or exits after the ceremony.


After the cake cutting ceremony, people settle down for the delicious Mexican foods. One of the famous dishes of a quinceanera banquet is Picadillo. This is a rich dish made of ground beef, and is often used as fillings for tamales and tacos. Main course dishes include Cabrito, which is a young roasted goat.
Chocolate sauces like Mole is added to many dishes served along with meat. Some famous desserts that are served include: Arroz (a rich rice pudding) and Pan de polvo (short bread cinnamon flavored cookies). Champagne is the drink to be served for toasts! Hard drinks like liquor, beer, and wine are also served.

The Tradition in Puerto Rico

The social rituals of quinceanera tradition of Puerto Rico follow in the same lines of commemorating the womanhood in a female. In the olden times, the girl on turning fifteen was taken away from her family to enlighten her about her history, culture, and traditions. The returning of the girl from her journey of new learnings was celebrated as her "coming of age".
Nowadays, the celebration is marked by religious ceremonies in Catholic churches followed by a grand party. After the mass, the girl offers her last quinceanera doll or her bouquet as an offering to the Virgin Mary, shedding her childhood image. Also, a cross necklace is presented to the girl which is a sign of her vow to God to remain chaste until marriage. The girl is also gifted Bible and prayer books that bear the words - "Today you devote yourself to the Virgin [Mary], ask that Her Life act as a model for your existence. May this beautiful and pious act be a sweet reminder that will last forever".
The most joyous event of this occasion commences after the Mass. The father-daughter dance, which is much awaited by all in the family, is the spectacular show of this occasion. This is the moment when the father presents his daughter to the world as a young woman. Most of the customs are similar to that of the Mexican quinceanera. Nowadays, the music of cacophonist banda, cumbia, and salsa also add to the much anticipated festivity to the event.
Cuban traditions are similar to that of the Mexican and Puerto Rican customs. However, the dance in Cuban quinceanera traditions is a delight to watch, where the girl is surrounded by sixteen couples dancing in a choreographed group dance. This dance is usually led by a dancer of her choice or her boyfriend.
The most common and traditional quinceanera gifts in all these Latino-dominated countries include the tiara, cross necklace, Bible, rosary, scepter, ceremony pillows, and a quinceanera doll. Accessories for this include flower bouquets, cake decoration and server sets, reception cards, and guest favors. Girls have a choice of trendy quinceanera hairstyles.
One of the interesting facts about this tradition is that, every facet of this event adds a sensuous beauty to a pretty fifteen year old. It is a big day in the life of a hispanic girl who awaits for this day with a lot of happiness and anticipation as this time comes just once in a girl's lifetime. This tradition of hispanic people is 400 years old, but still carries the charm of the rich hispanic heritage and reminds every hispanic individual their family bonds and culture of their forefathers.
Disclaimer: This story is for informative purposes only and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by an expert on the subject.