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A Quinceanera is described in many ways. A Quinceañera is a party. A Quinceanera is a girl growing up to be a woman. A Quinceañera is a time to celebrate the last fifteen years of a young Hispanic girl's life. Many Americans see a Quinceañera as a party. They see it as Hispanic people throwing a fifteenth birthday party for a girl. People's view of a quinceañera is different for everyone. Some see it as flattering and beautiful while others see it as a way to gain attention ($). To Hispanic people, however, a Quinceañera is much more than just a party; it is a time when a girl grows up and becomes a woman. Although many people believe a Quinceañera is simply a party, it is actually a celebration, a milestone, and a drastic change from child to young adult in a girl's life.
While a Quinceañera is a big party, the milestone also requires many traditions to be upheld by the Quince and her family. Traditions lead back hundreds of years to when Quinceañeras began. Quinceañeras originated from the Aztecs who celebrated a girl gaining her womanly responsibilities and, therefore, growing up (Karthik np). Quinceañeras were unpopular until the 1930's when people started showing interest in celebrating them again ("Quinceañera! A Celebration of Latina Womanhood" np). Years ago, fifteen was when a girl grew up and left the house to marry and have children. Now, girls become women at fifteen but with different responsibilities (%). Recently, our society has been drawn to hosting crazy and large parties. By far, quinceañeras are said to be the biggest and best of parties in America due to their popularity as well as many other factors (!). Many of these traditions are carried out during the mass; however, few are also performed at the reception. Originally, the Quinceañera was meant for girls to become women in the Hispanic culture. However, more and more boys have been requesting the blessing of the Quinceañera as they turn fifteen (X). Much like a wedding, before the Quince girl enters the church, flower petals are spread where she will walk. The flower petal tradition is normally performed by two small children. When the children finish spreading the flowers, they place a small pillow, usually embroidered for her, under the alter so she may kneel at various times during her ceremony (Cuevas De Caissie np). Looking as spectacular as a bride, a young girl's quinceañera is very close to a wedding and just as important to everyone. The only true difference is that a quinceañera celebrates a girl turning into a young woman (@). During the mass, the girl's Godparents present her with a scepter and the girl's parents replace the original headpiece with a tiara or a crown. These two items represent her new responsibilities before God and before her people. Following the mass, the girl performs one more act before going to the reception, "At the end of the ceremony the children pass out bolos or small gifts to those who attended the mass as the Quinceañera places her bouquet upon the altar of the Virgin Maria."(Cuevas De Caissie np). The Quince girl's act of giving her bouquet to the Virgin Maria shows respect to holy figures. Continuing to follow tradition, a few important customs are carried out at the reception. One tradition for a Quinceañera is that the girl chooses a Court of Honor, which consists of seven girls and seven boys. The Quinceañera chooses her Court of Honor for her ceremony and reception. It usually consists of people in her life, around her age, that are special and who she wants to spend her big night with (~). They perform and speak at her reception. The Quince girl's Court of Honor is there to support her and to celebrate her birthday with her (Hennessy-Fiske np). Another custom performed at the reception is the girl being presented with a bible, a cross, and a Rosary to symbolize her faith and to remind her of her promises to God as a woman (Cuevas De Caissie np). Many traditions ultimately keep the culture of the ceremony as well as keeping the Lord present.
These traditions, however, do not come without much preparation beforehand. One of the biggest factors of hosting and celebrating a Quinceañera is the cost. Naturally, the size of the Quinceañera as well as other things such as the venues and the attire of everyone depends on the money that a family can spend (Cuevas De Caissie np). Quinceañeras can be as pricy as a decent-sized and beautifully decorated wedding, right down to the invitations (Alvarez np). Americans save money for college and weddings of their children. While Hispanics save for college and weddings, they first must think about saving for a Quinceañera and what it will cost them to pay for it. In the past, people with a low income threw small quinces or simply did not have them. Today, many people of this class throw crazy quinceañeras and also get money from friends and family for the cost (^). Many Hispanic families rely on Godparents and other members of the family to help with the cost of the Quinceañera and even then, many take out a second mortgage on their homes to simply pay for this one special night (Cuevas De Caissie np). An additional component that Hispanic parents must remember is planning this night for their daughter. A Quinceañera cannot be planned in two months. Most Quinceañeras are planned two to three years in advance (Cuevas De Caissie np). There are many things that have to happen for a quinceañera to go off without a hitch. Similar to every popular event in society, the celebrations of quinceañeras has been taken over by the party industry. This has caused it to grow in many big ways, including the cost (*). Quinceañera has become very popular among many cultures of people. It is a great way to celebrate a fifteenth birthday. In most cases, the people celebrate this custom without knowing what it really means (/). For each fiesta, those elements can be religious or non-religious and they are different for each quinceañera. This depends on the quince and the people attending it (&). Nonetheless, parents are not the only people who should plan for a Quinceañera. For Quinceañeras, some parents do not think twice about managing their money. Parents do crazy things for their little girl's coming-of-age such as getting a second mortgage or just spending all the money they have (`). The Quince girl should prepare herself for the day as well. The girl can do a number of things in preparation for her day. One act of preparation is to devote a day to prayer. She should pray for her night and her family and friends. She should read the word of God to spiritually prepare herself for the blessings she will be receiving and the commitments she will be making to the Lord (Gómez-Ruiz 224). She should also rehearse the mass and the reception with her family and Court of Honor to ensure that the night will be flawless. The Quince girl should also meet with the priest conducting her ceremony to make sure she acquires all the necessary elements in order for the service to be holy (Gómez-Ruiz 218). After assuring that all the aspects of the night are accounted for, a schedule should be determined for the night, also ensuring that it will be flawless. Most Quinceañeras begin with the mass, which is held in a church. Following the mass, the group and its audience travels to a different venue for the reception. When all the guests are seated, the Court of Honor takes their place, followed by the Quince girl, who makes a grand entrance to her party. Before the festivities begin, a toast, known as Brindis, is proposed in the girl's honor and everyone has a chance to speak. Once the crowd finishes Brindis, the Court of Honor assembles and prepares themselves for the Waltz. At this celebration, the Waltz is split into three sets; The Waltz with the Chambelanes, the Family Waltz, and the General Waltz. The Waltz with the Chambelanes starts the festivities. The first Waltz is the time where each Chambelan of the Court of Honor dances with the birthday girl. Subsequently, the Family Waltz is next. The Family Waltz is the duration of the night when the Quince girl dances with all her immediate family members. Ending the Waltz sequence is the General Waltz when the guests are invited and encouraged to come and dance together. After the Waltz time has ended, the first song played is one chosen by the Quince girl to start the party ("The Tradition" np). This continues for the rest of the celebration until around midnight when the reception ends and the guests depart.
Towards the end of the ceremony, more rituals are performed. Of all the traditions and rituals presented at a Quinceañera, the following rituals are most important. The first is the lighting of fifteen candles. The lighting of the fifteen candles takes place when the cake is presented to the crowd. Fifteen important people, usually family or close friends, are chosen before the night to light one candle, and the girl prepares a short speech for each person that lit a candle on her cake. The second ritual is "La Ultima Muñeca", which is the ritual of the last doll. The Quince girl chooses one doll from her childhood and carries it with her throughout the night. At the end of the celebration, the girl gives up her doll, which symbolizes her childhood, as a sign of reaching adulthood ("The Tradition" np). In most South American countries, the Quinceañera celebration consists of a reception. Godparents are not required, there is no ceremony, and many of the traditions are not performed (+). While these rituals are significant to the fiesta, one of the best components is the Quince girl's dress. The dress symbolizes her purity and her promises to God. Normally, the dress is white as a way to stand for her purity and promises to God, but today, many Quinceañera dresses are made in bright colors with many sparkly accessories. One of the best details of a Quinceañera is the dress. The color and the design all adds to the beauty of the ceremony. Quinceañera dresses are almost exactly like wedding dresses from the cut to the material (=). The dresses are not very different from wedding dresses, and after Quinceañeras became more popular, many wedding dress designers started a line of Quinceañera dresses to be sold in boutiques and wedding shops. The only true difference between a wedding dress and Quince dress is that a Quince dress does not have a train (Cuevas De Caissie np). The final touches to the ceremony are the decorations. For what decorations are used, there are no restrictions. Many people use flowers and drapes with colors that correspond with the theme of the Quinceañera party.
These rituals and decorations are displayed to the invitees at the reception. The most important part of the reception is the time when rituals are fulfilled to symbolize womanhood. The most important ritual of a Quinceañera is the changing of the shoes. Through the mass, the Quince girl wears ballet flats and when she arrives at her reception; her father presents her with her first pair of high heels (Cuevas De Caissie np). This father-daughter moment is the ultimate time where a girl becomes a woman. She exits the reception later that night wearing the heels and stepping into the world as a woman. While this ritual is significant during the reception, the real reason for the reception is to celebrate the transition into womanhood. One aspect of the passage into womanhood is sharing it with the immediate family of the Quince girl. The Quince girl also has a privilege for her Quinceañera if she qualifies for it. She can be Miss Quince. However, there are some rules she must follow and qualifications her life must meet, "Not every girl wants to be Miss Quince. Like Miss America, Miss Quince can't have a past. She must sacrifice present pleasure for a future fiesta that comes after baptism and first Communion. Both her parents must be church members. She should not drink or smoke. Above all, she must be a virgin (Hennessy-Fiske np). If a girl is able to be Miss Quince, it is a true honor for her and her family. Her family is also included in the prayer ceremony. The ceremony is a time to come together and prayerfully celebrate the transition into her womanhood and her faith to God (Pope np). Following the family moment of prayer and times of ritual performance, the new young adult is free to go and enjoy the night with her Court of Honor and all guests. Her night includes dinner, dancing, cake, and speeches for the guests and for the Quince girl.
After the Quinceañera, a series of things a girl must follow in her transition from young adult to adult in her life are given to her. One thing she must do is dress modestly. The new young lady has to remember that she is a figure under God, and she must dress to show that. Her apparel must be modest and her actions also have to reflect her pureness. Her overall appearance, which consists of wardrobe, attitude, and language, must reflect that of God. A set of privileges come with being a woman and the Quince girl will acquire those privileges throughout her life. These privileges include the ability to participate in holy activities of the church and to teach younger people about the Lord and His great ways. The Quince girl is also allowed to wear heels, shave, and dance publicly. In many Latin American countries, a Quinceañera meant that a girl was available to marry. Today, some people now view it as a "sexual coming-of-age" for girls (?). These things are allowances given to her graciously by the Lord for becoming a young woman in His sacred place and continuing to follow Him passionately.
A Quinceañera consists of many things. A Quinceañera is a time to grow, a time to love, and a time to appreciate family, friends, and God. Though celebrating quinceañeras have fluctuated in popularity over the years, recently people have been seeing more and more of them coming back (#). While many people see this as just a party, a Quinceañera is actually a milestone and a transition into womanhood for young girls of the Hispanic culture.