The custom is a celebration of the young girl (la Quinceanera)
, and a recognition of her journey from childhood to maturity. The celebration highlights God, family, friends, music, food, and dance.
In the Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central and South American traditions, the custom can be referred to as a Quince (XV) Años
, a Quinces
, or a Quinceanera
. The celebration traditionally begins with a religious ceremony. A reception is held in the home or a banquet hall. The festivities include food and music, and in most, a choreographed waltz or dance performed by the Quinceanera and her court.
The Quinceanera's court can be comprised of young girls (called a Dama
), young men (called Chambelán or Escorte or Galán
) or a combination of both - traditionally up to 14 persons in the court, which with the Quinceanera, would total 15 young people.
The Quinceanera traditionally wears a ball gown, with her court usually dressed in gowns and tuxedos. Guests usually receive small tokens, cápias and cerámicas, to commemorate the celebration.
There are many traditions throughout the celebration. At the church ceremony, an XV pillow specially decorated with the Quinceanera's name, is placed in position for the young girl to kneel on during the ceremony. Smaller decorated pillows are also used for the presentation of the Quinceanera's gifts. At the reception, there is always the toast to the Quinceanera, known as the brindis. With specially decorated champagne glasses for the Quinceanera, the guests are invited to offer their congratulations and best wishes. The Quinceanera Doll, symbolizing the perfection of the event and the Quinceanera, is used as both a decoration and a keepsake. In some customs, the cápias
(printed ribbons with the Quinceanera's name and date) are pinned to the doll, and the Quinceanera circulates among her guests, thanking them for their presence and presenting them with a memento taken from the doll.
The Quince Años is a glorious celebration that remains a cherished and honored tradition.
The roots of the Quinceanera, although obscure, date from the era of the Aztecs and Mayans.
During the Aztec period, women were treated as second-class citizens, only available for bearing children and obeying their husband.
To prepare for their roles as mothers and wives, young females were separated from other children around the age of 15, and the elder women of the tribe taught the girls the skills they would need to be proper members of the family and community.
During the official rites of passage into womanhood, the parents and the community would thank the gods for their future wives and mothers.
The celebration served as an acknowledgement that a young woman had reached sexual maturity and was now an adult, ready to assume additional family and social responsibilities including marriage.
Most girls married at age 16, and those who did not were expected to remain at home and care for their parents and older relatives.
The Spanish conquered the Aztecs in the early 16th Century, and the religious traditions of the Catholics mingled with those of the Aztecs.
For girls, the age of 15 became a time of decision - devote their lives to the church or marry. The event became a personal affirmation of faith and a pledge to become good Christian wives and mothers.
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