My youngest daughter just turned 15 years old this month, and ever since she knew what a birthday party was, we started telling her and her sister that they would have a quinceanera. In preparation of her quinceanera, we discussed at length what it was, and because we were trying to make it ‘traditional’, we also had a mass, and in preparation for the mass, the priest met with her and interviewed her father and I to make sure we all understood exactly what we were celebrating. While the priest did a fine job of explaining what she should and shouldn’t do (more of a conversation of values and ‘no sex’ until married speech), I felt like something was missing? I started asking girlfriends if they were going to have quinceaneras and what they thought of them? And of course went to the internet, and I like the way this sums up both history and traditions:
The quinceañera has its origins many centuries ago when both boys and girls participated in rites of passage. To prepare for womanhood, girls were separated from other children at a certain age so the elder women could teach them about their future roles as members of family and community. During the official rites of passage, the community would thank the gods for the future wives and mothers, and the young women would vow to serve the community. http://www.hallmark.com/quinceanera/ideas/what-is-a-quinceanera/
So many people say it is like a wedding in the sense of planning and details, and budget too. It is not uncommon for parents to ask help of padrinos (godparents) to participate in the different parts of the mass, traditions, and even help pay for expenses like Padrino de Vino, Padrino de Limosina, Padrinos de Pastel(cake), Padrinos de Vestido (dress)etc. basically everyone else pays for the quinceanera party! I have mixed feelings on whether or not one should be planning a lavish party like this if it doesn’t fit into your budget to pay yourself? None the less, this is a common practice to pay for the quinceaneras. Yes, it’s a special celebration, but at least here in the states, I think one can get by without the big lavish party and modify according to budget. My parents didn’t have a big lavish party for me, but they did have a nice mass, dinner, and party for me and my close friends, it was enough to make it a very special and memorable quinceanera for me.
I have two daughters, Alejandra is now 16yrs old and she chose to have a good ol’ american sweet 16 birthday party, which can also be very lavish. We were moderate with it, she had a beautiful dinner & dj party, she did the 16candle tradition and performed a surprise dance, it was lovely, and she was extremely happy.
My daughter Alejandra recently competed for the title of Miss Teen Minnesota Latina and ended with 2nd runner up, it was her first competition/pageant ever like it, we are very proud of her bravery to participate.
All of this has happened in the last four months, and while stress level was high, it was worth it for them, and it also made me appreciate these two very young women, aka my daughters, even more! Alejandra & Julia’s desires to participate in these Latino inspired celebrations and events reminded me a lot of myself when I was a young latina discovering my identity, as many young women do. Like my daughters, I wanted to ‘fit in’ with mainstream, yet very much embraced my culture and traditions, and that is tough to do at that age. It was easier for me than for my daughters to embrace and learn the culture and traditions because I grew up in our family business www.elburritomercado.com so by default I learned alot! But for many 2nd generation kids (especially in the midwest) such as my daughters that didn’t grow up in a cultural based business/community, it makes for an even more challenging search of their identity. I am so proud and supportive of their ambitions to participate and celebrate their culture. There is a part of them that struggles yet to define what it means to them to be Latina, yet as many young 2nd generation Latinos, that is being characterized as they develop and mature. For both of my daughters, they have not mastered Spanish as a 2nd language yet, they have the desire to do so, and meanwhile, while they often struggle with the frustration of not speaking Spanish, they most definitely are proud of their heritage and traditions.
My daughters are so inspiring for me, and I grasp the opportunities to teach them and others about our Mexican culture, foods, and traditions! Julia’s quinceanera was modified to her liking embracing some very symbolic traditions such as the changing from flats to heels, she also kept it to a ‘comfortable’ level of a traditional celebration. Being raised Catholic and truly accepting of her faith, her personal prayer and mass were very important to her and evident in her expressions. The father daughter moments in the celebration were probably the most endearing of her whole party, her father sang to her, changed her from flats to heels, and danced a choreographed surprise dance with her, it had us all in tears.
If you’re background is of rich cultural traditions, learn it, embrace it, and share it! I am so thrilled that my daughters have not turned their back on their culture, they are proud of who they are, and I am so incredibly happy for them. Most of her friends at the party were caucasian and we heard over and over that it was one of the best parties they’d ever been to, and this made my daughter even more proud and encouraged about sharing her cultural traditions.
Want to plan a quinceanera for someone special in your life? I’d be happy to help with ideas and/or catering of a traditional quinceanera dinner. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org