One of the most important celebrations in Mexican culture is the tradition of the quinceañera. This comprises a huge birthday celebration on a girl’s fifteenth birthday to mark her passage to womanhood.
The origins of this festival combines both Spanish-Catholic traditions with a rich and indigenous heritage. The ancient Aztecs, had many ceremonies to mark passages through the stages of life. Among the most important, was preparing young women for their roles in society. The woman was presented with gifts and with elements of her dowry, or bridal wealth.
Depending on your location around the world, you maybe have heard about the XV birthday party of Rubi (click for the full story). It is a classic example of when your parents haven’t quite grasped the concept of modern technology.
A father of a 14 year old girl called, Rubi, posted an invite on Facebook to who he thought was his family and friends, inviting them to his daughters quinceañera in their local village La Joya, central Mexico until the party went viral and 1.2 million people said they would attend!
To me, it reminds me something of a the American ´sweet sixteen´. The girls (young women) are dressed to the nines in lavish ball/prom dresses, adorned in sparkly jewellery and a face of make up. In some cases, they end up looking twice their age something that of a 30 year old, rather than young, fresh fifteen year olds.
In Mexican communities, the quinceañera serves not only to honor the young woman for her maturity, but also the girl’s parents and family, as well as her padrinos (godparents). The godparents, and her mother and father play important roles throughout the ceremonies. Most societies have rituals signifying a passage to adulthood for both women and men, but the quinceañera is very distinctive.
The celebrations start with a ´Misa de acción de gracias´, or mass to give thanks for a completed childhood. ´The festejada´, or adolescent woman celebrating the birthday, is seated at the foot of the church altar resplendent in an elaborate pink or white formal dress. The godparents usually present her with special gifts (often jewellery to compliment the dress. Sat around the birthday girl are the ´chambelanes´ (male escorts). Often, these are siblings, relatives or close friends of the family.
The mass is similar to that of a baptism welcoming the ´festejada´ to her new life an adult. After the mass, the young woman leaves a bouquet of flowers to the Virgen de Guadalupe. Once the mass is over, photographs are taken in order to share with everyone. After this, the party commences!
The party is a big affair, traditionally lasting for six hours. The parents, godparents, and often other families go all-out to make the party an absolutely over-the-top experience.
Similar to all big celebrations, an important component to the quinceañera is the cake. It usually has a replica of the birthday girl´s gown. In addition, there is dancing, live music, and plenty of contemporary music, as well as more traditional styles including, cumbia, banda and salsa, as well as older songs for the old attendees.
The birthday girl traditionally opens the party officially by dancing a waltz with her father or primary escort (normally a male friend or cousin). In some cases, girls can have multiple dances to different tracks. This dependes on the girl and how much practice they want to do! A formal dinner is featured at the party as well, which is accompanied with toasts reminiscing on the life of the young lady.
You might be wondering, how do 15 year old boys celebrate? The short answer is that they do not! This is one of those privileges of being a girl! #girlpower
Personally, I find it quite a bizarre celebration as at 15 years old, the young people are not legally allowed to do anything (unlike when you become 16, 18 and 21 years old, etc). Also to dress your daughter up to look like she is a fully pledged adult (i.e, far older than she is) what with the make up and dress, it feels like she is losing her youth for a day. Notwithstanding my opinion, this is something that I love about learning about new cultures. No one is right or wrong, things are just different!