A Quinceañera, Quince, Quinceañero or Quince años (English: “fifteen years”), is a coming of age ceremony held in some Latin American cultures on a girl’s fifteenth birthday, comparable to a Sweet Sixteen celebration.
Planning begins up to a year in advance, and requires the resources of several members of the family and friends. The family priest will perform a Quinceañera ceremony in church. The girl’s baptismal godparents will oversee the spiritual celebration, and her many friends and relatives will attend to see the recognition she will receive as she makes the transition from girl to young lady in everyone’s eyes.
Quinceañera are comparable in scope and grandeur to weddings, and the party atmosphere that follows the somewhat more subdued religious atmosphere. There is a significant dress, just as with a wedding, and can be just as expensive and unique as a wedding gown. Flowers and decorations are selected to match the color scheme of the festivities, a reception is held at which guests will be served a meal and there will be dancing for all in attendance.
One of the most popular Quinceañera traditions is the father-daughter dance. As the quince girl dances with her father he passes her on to her chambelan de honor. This meaning the father is letting go of his daughter because she is now a woman of age. Additionally, the quincianera will wear flat-heeled shoes and will be presented with a pair of high-heeled shoes to signify a girl becoming a woman.
The person celebrating her Quinceañera will make a presentation of a porcelain doll to her younger sister (if any), symbolizing the last of her toys, another representation of moving forward toward adulthood.
With much symbolism and significance, gifts are an important part of a Quinceañera tradition. They denote the young lady’s acceptance by the church, by God and by the congregation (her family and friends) as a woman. She wears a tiara as a sign of leaving childhood behind and facing the challenges that lay ahead and she is also presented with either a bracelet or ring (or both) representing the unending circle of life. Earrings are a reminder to listen and pay heed to the word of God and the world around her, a cross or medallion signifies faith and a rosary or prayer book are religious resources to always remind the young lady to remember her devotion to God.
The escort for the girl is the person she dances with. The escort can be her brother, cousin, family friend, or boyfriend. They dance a special dance, (usually choreographed before the Quince), and often her damas[disambiguation needed], (female friends or family members around her age), and chambelanes, (male friends or family members around her age), dance around them in couples. They usually have two dances: a traditional waltz and another choreographed dance.
Recently, girls sometimes may have a less traditional Quinceañera. They may not have damas and chambelanes, and only have their baptismal vows renewed at a special mass dedicated to the girl. The party afterward is often just a dance with all of her friends, and not necessarily the dance with her father. Also, gifts tend to be less traditional; often girls receive cash, or giftcards of some sort or even clothes.