Attending a birthday party in nearby Los Lopez for a 15 year old girl I was again amazed and awed on all the symbolism mixed into the food, music and fun.
A quinceañera, like most every modern San Miguel tradition, has its roots in mixture of indigenous and Spanish culture. Mayans, Aztecs, and alike celebrated a youth turning 15 as her introduction into adulthood and eligibility for marriage after fifteen years of learning the skills required of a wife and mother.
Once the Spanish arrived they tweaked what the indigenous already believed into a more Catholic event. To this today all quinceañeras start with mass. The mass is for the parents thanking God for bringing their little girl to this point. Plus the mass expresses the young lady’s commitment to continue her Catholic morals and traditions in front of friends and family.
Up on the altar with the priest with be the birthday girl, her parents, godparents and a bevy of boys she’s pals with and has been working for months with on choreographies. The other adults present on the altar have helped finance the cost of the upcoming party.
Until recently a girl turning 15 wore white to symbolize purity. These days the birthday lass picks a color scheme reflected in her dress, flowers, balloons, her boys’ suits and much else.
Following mass the party starts!
I’ve been to quinceañera parties in fields, hotels and rented halls. Regardless, the color scheme continues and is reflected in some of the most elaborate cakes I’ve ever seen. No one starves at a quinceañera!
Following food is often hours of dead time as late, mass-skipping, guests arrive.
Eventually the floor show begins where the young woman and her male friends perform their dance routines. I know dance teachers that specialize in these productions, as they are that important and greatly entertaining. Adele and a song about a lemon tree are currently popular ditties in these interludes.
Between firework-laden routines come many lovely traditions.
Last Doll – The birthday girl will receive her last doll as she says goodbye her childhood. The doll with have her same color hair and a gown similar to her own.
First Heels – Then come the new stilettos as she says hello to being an adult woman.
Flower Ceremony – Roses arrive as every woman important to the birthday girl receives recognition for getting her to this point in her life by receiving a rose. Naturally, Mom comes first followed by aunts, teachers, cousins, sisters and such until the ceremony is bookended with her grandmothers.
Dancing Men – The men who matter in her life take turns dancing a waltz as each is introduced to the crowd like the ladies were. It’s really sweet.
Tiara – No point wearing a Disney princess gown without receiving a tiara. No question who is the queen for the day. At some point during the party her dress comes apart and becomes a mini-skirt length tutu number for her more athletic dancing.
Toast – The gal and her court receive goblets of wine to toast to her happiness.
Following all the dancing the concert then begins. I’ve been to birthday parties with concerts that feature light shows and stages Fleetwod Mac would be honored to perform at.
As a foreigner at these events here are some pointers. For a gift I stick with jewelry figuring every adolescent likes that. Normally I attach them to a Mexican Maria doll and figure she’s already received enough religious paraphernalia as gifts to last a lifetime.
Then I have a box of nice chocolates just for her mother. This gal spends most of the party working like a dog (well, not my dog) and could use some luvin’ just for her.
Often I’ll receive a bottle of tequila as the only foreigner there and the parents are honored by my presence. Do not share your bounty with your table mates, it is bad form. That booze is meant for you. Since I don’t drink hard alcohol I attempt to make the bottle disappear as soon as possible to avoid offending anyone.
It can be argued a quinceañera promotes worn out stereotypes of virginity, marriage and eligibility. Women my age that had one, remember it with fondness. Those that didn’t knew their family couldn’t afford one.
I know for sure at any event that feature a gal in a big, poufy dress like the Miss Grandmother pageant for seniors, or when a toddler turns 3, you simply can’t go wrong making a gal, at any age, feel special. If your special adolescent would rather have a small party and pocket the money for a trip or skip the party entirely to focus on future celebrations like graduations and marriages, let her. The point is she has your attention and you are making her feel special in a way she finds appealing.
If I were a 14 year old Mexican girl (yes, a creepy thought on many levels) I’d go the quinceañera route and enjoy having my photo from the day hang in my parents’ living room for the rest of my life next to my graduation and wedding images.