Today we are taking a step away from weddings to focus on quinceañeras which are another important event in the lives of Hispanic young women.
Celebrated throughout the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries of the Americas, the roots of the quinceañera date back to the Aztec civilization in what is now Mexico. Throughout her 14th year, a girl was taught domestic skills by the older women of her community so that on her 15th birthday, she could be presented to the whole community as an adult woman who was ready to be married.
When the Spanish overthrew the Aztecs in the 1520s, the Aztec coming-of-age ceremony added a Catholic mass component as well as taking on some of the aspects of an upper class Spanish debut party.
For centuries, this coming-of-age ceremony only occurred in the wealthiest families. However, over the past few decades, more and more Hispanic girls are celebrating their quinceañeras in as lavish or simple a way as their family finances allow.
Quinceañera celebrations today are steeped in traditions that vary depending on which country the family is from. We wanted to highlight a handful of them.
The Quince girl wears a fancy gown reminiscent of a wedding dress, often in white or pink, to symbolize her purity and virginity. She may also wear a tiara. A true princess for a day.
The first event of the quinceañera is a mass where the Quince girl is blessed and may participate in the service by reading a lesson or prayer. At the end of the mass, she will place a bouquet at the feet of the statue of the Virgin Mary as a symbol of her adulthood. In addition, she will be accompanied by 14 pairs of attendants symbolizing the 14 years the girl has come through already.
The girl, her attendants, and family then go on to a gala banquet, often prepared by her aunts, and other female friends. At the banquet, the Quince girl will dance the first dance with her father, who has been the primary male figure in her life and who then turns her over to her escort as a symbol that she is now old enough to date.
The girl may choose to have a candle ceremony where she hands a candle to 15 of the people she feels have been most significant in her life. As she presents the candle, she says a few words about how the person influenced her.
Another common quinceañera activity is when the Quince girl’s shoes are changed from flats to high heels often by one or both of her parents and often for the last dance. The obvious symbolism is that the girl entered the day as a child, and exited it as an adult.
As times have changed, so have quinceañeras. Quince girls now have more say in their celebration, and are not so tied to lavish events. There is a new freedom in venue, dress, and activities for observing this traditional celebration for Hispanic families and their daughters.
Have a question about a Wedding or party tradition that you want answered? Are you interested in renting the many venues managed by the Osceola County Historical Society for weddings, meetings, parties or events?
Making Your Story – History!
Conger, Cristen. “How Quinceañeras Work,” July 25, 2011. HowStuffWorks.com. https://people.howstuffworks.com/culture-traditions/cultural-traditions/quinceanera.htm
FunAttic. “13 Important Quinceanera Traditions.” https://funattic.com/quinceanera-traditions.htm
Hallmark Staff. “What is a Quinceanera?” September 8, 2016. https://ideas.hallmark.com/articles/quinceanera-ideas/what-is-a-quinceanera/
Wikipedia. “Quinceañera.” September 2, 2018. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quincea%C3%B1era#Changes_over_the_years
Stone, Robert L., 1944-. Young woman receives her gifts at her Quinceanera - Apopka, Florida. 1996. Black & white photonegative. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. Accessed 24 Sep. 2018.<https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/111996>.
Stone, Robert L., 1944-. Irene Guave celebrates her Quinceanera - Dade County, Florida. 1994. Color slide. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. Accessed 24 Sep. 2018.<https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/112081>.