What is a Quincenera?
Have you been invited to a quinceñera? Does your daughter or son have a classmate who wants them to "stand up" in the ceremony? What is all this celebration about surrounding this 15th birthday party?
With the recent increase of Latino and Hispanic families in the U.S., many family and friends have found themselves to be part of a celebration that is new to them.
In many Latin American cultures, and in the US's Hispanic culture, a girl's quinceñera (or "quince") is the celebration of her 15th birthday and her introduction to womanhood. In some ways it can be related to a "coming out" party, or a debut.
There are usually two main parts to a quinceñera: the ceremony and the celebration.
The ceremony is almost always a Catholic-based mass, or a part of a mass. Attendees have no part in the mass, except to congratulate the teen, and possibly take pictures if you wish. Those who are not familiar with Catholicism should note that the mass has many parts that include attendees standing or kneeling. Newbies should just "follow the crowd." Many masses also have "communion", which is where participants file to the front of the church to receive a piece of bread/wafer and maybe a drink of wine. Those not Catholic or familiar with this ceremony should best skip it. You won't be the only one, guaranteed!
The second part of a quince generally includes dinner and a dance, sometimes similar to a wedding. It is likely that there will be music and that alcohol will be served. This is usually a great celbration and may last late into the evening, depending on the individual family. Families will also vary on what kinds of traditions they will use in this part of the celebration. You may be able to see the teen and her friends take part in a choreographed dance. There may be small ceremonies where the girl is presented with gifts that symbolize her transition to womanhood. Often "padrinos" (godparents) have main parts in the celebration.
Guests should participate as they feel comfortable and enjoy this culture's incredible hospitality. It is appropriate to bring a gift for the girl if desired, and perhaps even to ask her for a dance. Most attendees will dress up a little for the ceremony and dance.
How lucky we are to live in a nation that welcomes and celebrate different cultures! Enjoy the evening, take part in the girl's special memory, and count your blessings at being invited to such a fun time.