What is a Quinceañera? A Fun Celebration in Mexican Culture

A quinceañera is a traditional celebration in Mexico and Latin American countries, marking a girl’s 15th birthday and transition from childhood to womanhood.

It typically includes a religious ceremony, a family gathering, and a formal event with music, dancing, and food.

The girl celebrating her Quinceañera traditionally wears a formal dress and is often accompanied by her family and friends.

It is considered a significant event in a young girl’s life and a way to celebrate her coming of age.

The Quinceañera’s dress

what is a quinceañera
Source: Jen Baer / flickr.com

The dress can be ready-made at one of the many stores that sell it or ordered from a sewist.

In the past, girls used to opt for long dresses in pastel colors, pink, blue, yellow, or beige. Nowadays, some girls prefer them in brighter colors and designs.

There are also those who choose short dresses or styles that are not designed just for that occasion but can be worn at any other event.

Most still opt for a dress that makes them look and feel like princesses on their special day.

It is becoming increasingly popular for Quinceañeras to wear their beautiful high heels during the party.

When they get tired of them, they change them for sneakers decorated with the colors of the dress, which will allow them to dance for hours!

What is a Quinceañera celebration like? Step-by-step

what is a quinceañera
Source: David Ducoin / flickr.com

If you’ve never been to a Quinceañera celebration before, I will break it down for you to give you an idea of what to expect.

The lavishness and party style will greatly depend on the family’s budget, and of course, on the tastes and interests of the Quinceañera.

Nevertheless, the order of events is almost always the same; let’s take a look:

1. The Quinceañera Mass

For religious families, it is fundamental to begin the celebrations with a mass of “thanksgiving,” in which the Quinceañera and her parents thank God that she has reached this age.

In his sermon, the priest exhorts both parties so that the girl assumes a responsible attitude following her new age.

It is customary for the Quinceañera to arrive at the church in a beautiful car (or limo).

At the end of the religious ceremony, the guests take pictures of the Quinceañera.

2. Photo session

After the mass and before going to the reception hall, the Quinceañera usually has a photo session.

A few years ago, the shots were taken at a photography studio.

Nowadays, photos are taken in the most representative or beautiful places of the city or town where the girl lives, for example, a park, a sculpture or monument, or a beach.

3. The waltz

When Emperor Maximilian of Austria and his wife, Empress Carlota, established their empire in Mexico (1864-1867), European customs were acquired, such as dancing to the waltzes of Johann Strauss, father, and son.

In the ’80s, Quinceañeras danced their waltz to the melodies of French pianist Richard Clayderman; the most popular were “Balada para Adelina” and “Para Elisa.”

In the ’90s, two songs associated with Quinceañeras were used as waltzes:

  1. “Quinceañera,” which was the theme song of the soap opera of the same name, was performed by the Mexican actress and singer Thalía and composed by the Mexicans Guillermo Méndez Guiú and Álvaro Dávila.
  2. “Tiempo de Vals,” sung by Puerto Rican Chayannne and composed by Spaniard Nacho Cano.

Nowadays, any song that the quinceañera likes, in Spanish or English, can be used for this purpose.

Quinceañeras may choose to waltz with one or more “chamberlains,” who may be family members, friends, or acquaintances of the Quinceañera.

Nowadays, they can also be dancers who are professionally dedicated to it.

Others choose to dance only with their parents. Still, others dance their first waltz with all the men invited to the party, starting with the father and ending with the youngest guest.

In addition to waltzing, Quinceañeras perform choreographies with one or more costume changes.

Among the rhythms they choose are fashionable songs, salsa, or cumbia.

Choreographies are rehearsed months in advance with the help of a professional choreographer and involve many hours of effort and discipline.

4. Quinceañera’s toast and the banquet

what is a quinceanera
Source: ricardo / flickr.com

Depending on the parents’ budget, the party will take place at home, in a garden, or a party hall.

It is customary for the father, mother, godfather, or godmother to give an introductory speech, followed by a toast in honor of the Quinceañera.

After dinner comes the most fun part: Dancing!

The Quinceañera and her guests dance to the rhythm of a live band or a DJ who, in addition to handling the turntables and recorded music, acts as the master of ceremonies.

It is customary to decorate the party with people on stilts who distribute accessories such as fake mustaches, wigs, balloons, paper ties, glasses, hats, etc., to the party participants to make the celebration more fun.

At the end of the party, the Quinceañera gives the guests a souvenir of the day, a photo of her, a bracelet, a towel with her name and the date of the celebration, or some other object.

In most cases, a live mariachi band sings “Las mañanitas,” the Mexican birthday song, to the birthday girl and other traditional Mexican songs.

Some young ladies can choose between a Quinceañera birthday party, a trip to the United States, Canada, Europe, or a Caribbean cruise.

However, the vast majority don’t want to trade the feeling of being a princess for a day.


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