You may have heard the term “Quinceanera” before, and you might be aware that it’s some form of holiday or tradition, but you’re not sure what it’s supposed to be celebrating. Not only do you not know what to celebrate, you also aren’t sure how.

Normally, this wouldn’t be much of a problem, except that you have friends who are Latino or Latina, and they have mentioned something about an upcoming quinceanera. Perhaps you’ve recently married into a Hispanic family, and it somehow didn’t occur to you to learn about some of the cultural differences and what it would mean for you and your spouse.

Either way, you’re going to need a crash course on quinceaneras, the what, the why and how. Luckily, you’ve come to the right place. In the next few paragraphs, we’ll answer the questions of what is a quinceanera and why are they so important?

Feliz Cumpleanos

This phrase translates to “Happy Birthday,” and is quite fitting because a quinceanera is essentially a landmark birthday party. Just as American culture celebrates sixteen, eighteen, and twenty-one as landmark birthdays, places like Puerto Rico, Cuba, Mexico, as well as Central and South America celebrate the fifteenth birthday in a ceremony called a quinceanera.

It is important to note that Quinceaneras are only celebrated for girls. The name itself roughly translates to “Fifteen-year-old girl.”

The quinceanera itself is so important because it symbolizes a transition into maturity. The namesake girl is officially recognized as a woman, or at least well on the path to womanhood, and is ready to play a more active role in her own life and the lives of her family.

La Fiesta

Now that you know what a quinceanera is, you may be wondering how it’s celebrated. Unlike most birthday parties, a quinceanera can be thought of as having two phases.

The first is a religious ceremony, a special type of mass in which the young woman has her faith reaffirmed and rededicates herself to God. This is seen as the most important part of the quinceanera because naturally God is thought of as being more important than any other aspect of life.

After the mass is concluded, the family leaves the church and goes to another venue, where they will hold the party. A lot goes into this party, so much that people often compare it to planning a wedding.

Every aspect of a quinceanera is planned by the young woman the party is for. Tradition states that the girl herself must wear a ball gown in the color of her choice. Later on, she may receive a matching bouquet

In the past, the color was often pink, but traditions have changed slightly so any color can be chosen. In addition to the gown, the young woman is also commonly given a cross and a bible. This adds to the religious significance of the ceremony.

Additionally, the guest of honor receives a scepter and tiara. She also chooses her own guests who will play a significant role in the celebrations, most notably the men.

A group of specially-chosen men, usually the girl’s peers begin the celebration by dancing a waltz with the young woman. Several other traditions may follow.

The woman may be offered a bouquet that matches her dress, the first bouquet she will be offered as a woman. She may also be offered a doll, the last doll she will ever own. Traditionally, she is encouraged to pass down the doll to a younger member of the family.

Finally, she may be presented with fifteen small pinatas, which she is required to smash open. Each pinata represents a year of her life.

The rest of the night takes the form of any other birthday party, with family, friends, presents, and cake. After a quinceanera, she will never be thought of as a child again.

What is a Quinceanera: A Review

So, what is a quinceanera? A quinceanera is a Hispanic tradition that takes place when a girl turns fifteen. At this point, she takes charge of her own faith and renews her vows to god as an adult.

Afterward, there is a large party, where the girl dances a waltz with some of her male peers. She is then presented with a bouquet, given the chance to break fifteen pinatas, and gifted with the last doll she will ever own. Each one of these acts carries a lot of significance, and, in some way, symbolizes the transition to adulthood.

Are you planning a quinceanera? Are you unsure where to get a gown and other traditional items? We can definitely help. Perhaps you want to throw someone you love an amazing quinceanera, but you can’t afford anything too huge. We can offer some great advice on that.