The Quinceañera celebration is a Hispanic tradition of celebrating a young girl's (la Quinceañera) 15th birthday. This ceremony marks her transition to womanhood, and presents her to the community. For Westerners, the Quinceañera celebration may be seen like a combination of a "sweet sixteen" birthday party and a debutante ball, but with strong religious undertones. And, it's not only about the girl - her parents and family, including her padrinos (godparents) play an important role in the ceremony.
The festivity itself consists of two parts. The first part starts at the local Catholic church, with a "Misa de acción de gracias" (a mass to give thanks for a completed childhood). The festejada is seated at the foot of the church altar with her damas (maids of honor) and chambelanes (escorts), who are grouped in order of the different ages the festejada has completed. She is wearing an elaborate pink or white formal dress, often accentuated with jewelry, along the other gifts bestowed on her by her godfathers. In her hands, there is a Bible or book of prayers and rosary.
The mass is combined with a ceremony that welcomes the festejada to her adult life and responsibilities (as symbolized by a scepter given to her). Other ceremonial gifts include a cross or medal, symbolizing her faith, and her headpiece is replaced by a tiara. After she reaffirms her dedication to God and receives a blessing from a priest, she leaves a bouquet of flowers to the Virgen of Guadalupe, and after the gifts of remembrance and photographs have been distributed to the guests, it is time for a party, which often lasts for hours!
In recent years, the Quinceañera celebration has become an increasingly important - and opulent - event, sometimes even more so than a girl's wedding day! In fact, some call these ceremonies "mini bodas" - miniature weddings. The Quinceañera celebration may easily be the most important day in a young Latina's life! She is showered with lavish gifts, and the party is not complete without a huge, elaborate cake, toasting, and a live band playing.
A quince girl's dress is a full-length formal dress in white or pale pink, often made of satin with lace overlays and rhinestone accents. It's an outfit befitting a fairytale princess. Not surprisingly, arguably the most popular Quinceañera theme is the princess theme! It includes things like tiaras, crowns, princess dolls, castles, carriages, candles, flower petals, glass slippers, and ribbons. Every girl would want to be a princess for a day - and for her special day, a quince girl truly becomes one.