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Quinceañera (pronounced: [kin.se.aˈɲe.ɾa]; feminine form of "fifteen-year-old"), also called fiesta de quince años, fiesta de quinceañera, quince años or simply quince, is the celebration of a girl's fifteenth birthday in parts of Latin America and elsewhere in communities of people from Latin America. This birthday is celebrated differently from any other as it marks the transition from childhood to young womanhood. The celebration, however, varies significantly across countries, with celebrations in some countries taking on, for example, more religious overtones than in others.
In Brazil, a Portuguese-speaking country, the same celebration is called festa de debutantes, baile de debutantes or festa de quinze anos. In the French Caribbean and French Guiana, it is called fête des quinze ans.
In specific countries
Argentina, Peru, Paraguay and Uruguay
In Argentina, Peru, Paraguay and Uruguay the celebration (which is never referred to as a quinceañera but as a fiesta de quince) begins with the arrival of the teenager, wearing a special dress, and generally accompanied by her father. The location, if indoors, commonly has its entrance specially adorned for the occasion. The father and daughter make their entry through this front-door entrance to the sound of music while friends and relatives customarily give the father flowers (usually roses). After this the ceremony of the waltz begins in which the girl dances with all her friends and relatives. Normally the ball is divided into segments, between which the various dishes are served. The following order of events represents a typical program:
- Entrance, which is usually accompanied by slow songs
- First period of dancing
- Main meal course
- Second period of dancing
- Dessert and video playback of the recorded birthday with her friends
- 15-candle ceremony (optional)
- Third period of dancing
- Toast, cake cutting, and a ritual where each female friend/relative pulls a ribbon out of a bunch. The ribbons all have charms on the ends except for one which has a ring.
- Last period of dancing
Ceremony of the 15 Candles
In this ceremony, the birthday girl hands a candle to each of fifteen people she considers were most influential in her life during her fifteen years. It is often accompanied by a speech, usually dedicated to each of the people that are given candles. This ceremony is also known as the Tree of Life. The 15 candles symbolize the 15 years the girl has "left behind". Each of the candles represents a special memory, a moment shared with any person who is invited to join the ritual.
In Brazil the celebration is called festa de debutantes, baile de debutantes or festa de quinze anos. The following order of events represents a typical program:
- Mass (optional)
- First period of dancing (usually to international music)
- Ceremony with videos about the girl's life with friends' greeting
- A dance with men from her family and one boy (either her boyfriend or her best friend)
- Second period of dancing (usually to national music)
- Cake cutting
- Third period of dancing
In Cuba, the party may include a choreographed group dance, in which 14 couples waltz around the quinceañera, who is accompanied by one of the main dancers, a boy of her choice, her boyfriend or friends of rights.[vague] The choreography often includes four or six dancers or escorts called experts, who are allowed to dance around the quinceañera. They are usually inexperienced dancers whose function is to highlight the central couple. The male dancers are also allowed to wear tuxedos in different colors.
Fifteenth birthday celebrations were very popular in Cuba until the late 1970s. This practice partly entered Cuba via Spain, but the greatest influence was the French. The wealthy families who could afford to rent expensive dining rooms in private clubs or hotels of four and five stars were the real precursors of quinceañeras, which they called quinces. These celebrations usually took place in the house of the girl or the more spacious house of a relative.
This celebration is very traditional and common. It begins with a Mass in the Catholic Church to receive the blessing of God and give thanks for another year of life. At the birthday party, the birthday girl makes her entrance to the place of the party accompanied by 14 additional pairs of guests, which together with the teenager's own are 15 pairs of people total. Usually, quinceañera wears a bright color dress and the other couples wear long dresses for the ladies and suits and ties for the gentlemen which are often brightly colored. They are never to overshadow the birthday girl's dress which is the main focal point of the celebration. Almost immediately the quinceañera birthday girl dances the waltz with her partner who usually waltzes in the middle and passes her to the hands of her father to finish the waltz.
It is customary for the Quinceañera girl and her escorts to perform several choreographed dances, which may include rhythms like merengue, pop, salsa, etc. It is also customary to serve a buffet and some drinks during the celebration. As the party favors or memories are given to the guests, the traditional album is signed by invited guests to record their presence at the party. One of the main attractions in the Dominican Republic is the traditional cake of fifteen years, which usually becomes a cake of immense size and beauty, as they use very colorful designs to decorate it. The cake is cut shortly after the dancing. Traditionally the participation of an artist or band in the celebration of the feast is customary to bring it to life and give a musical touch.
In Ecuador, the quince starts with the arrival of the teenager, accompanied by her father, who is then received by her mother and other relatives and friends. Then father and daughter dance a waltz, and other tunes. The quinceañera birthday girl will dance with her brothers (if any) and their uncles and godparents. Then she performs the paso doble and the waltz with all members of the procession (optional dance then any other music, merengue, pop, etc.). For this occasion the teenager wears an evening dress in light colors or pastels, is dressed and made up slightly, usually places a tiara in her hair and jewels on her neck and hands. All the guests dressed in formal attire, including the teenager's friends of the same age.
After the original dance, the choreography begins with a set up by the teenager and her friends. After that, the festival begins with music from live bands, some famous artist, DJs, food, drink, and at one point of the night -usually late- a "crazy hour" is carried out, in which the attendants wear masks or funny wigs and make noise with whistles and rattles while fast-tempo music is played. It is optional to make some surprise dance performed by the quinceañera birthday girl (alone or accompanied), and also a dance that will give away her friends, cousins, etcetera.
French Guiana and French Caribbean
In Mexico, the birthday girl, known as the quinceañera, is adorned with elegant makeup. Traditionally, this would be the first time she would wear makeup, but today this is not usually the case. The quinceañera is also expected to wear a formal evening dress. Traditionally, that dress was a long ball gown.
In the Mexican tradition, when the teenager is Catholic, the quinceañera celebration begins with a thanksgiving mass. She arrives at the celebration accompanied by her parents, godparents and court of honor. The court of honor is a group of her chosen peers consisting of paired-off girls and boys, respectively known as damas (dames) and chambelanes (chamberlains). Typically, there are seven or fourteen pairs of damas and chambelanes. At this religious mass, a rosary, or sometimes a necklace with a locket or pendant depicting Mexico's patron saint, the Virgin of Guadalupe, is awarded to the teenager by her godparents, such a necklace having been previously blessed by the church clergy. She is also awarded a tiara. The tiara serves as a reminder that to her loved ones, especially her immediate family, the quinceañera will always be a princess; however, some also see it as denoting that she is a "princess" before God and the world. After this, the girl may leave her bouquet of flowers on the altar for the Virgin Mary.
After the thanksgiving mass, guests gather for a reception where the remaining celebratory events meant to honor the quinceañera will take place, including the rendering of gifts. This reception may be held at the quinceañera's home, at an events room (such as a dining hall, banquet hall, or casino), or in some cases publicly held, similar to a block party. During the reception, the birthday girl usually dances a traditional waltz with her "chambelan de honor", who is her chosen escort, and her court of honor. Often this section of the celebration is previously practiced and/or choreographed, often weeks in advance, sometimes even with months of anticipation. The basic reception consists of six major parts with dances taking place while a traditional Mexican meal is served:
- The formal entry - A grand entrance made by the Quinceañera once most guests have been seated.
- The formal toast - An optional but usually featured part of the reception, generally initiated by the parents or godparents of the birthday girl.
- The first dance - Usually a waltz where the girl dances, starting with her father.
- The family dance - Usually a waltz involving just the immediate relatives, the "chambelanes", godparents and the closest friends of the girl.
- The preferred song - Any modern song particularly enjoyed by the Quinceañera is played and danced.
- The general dance - Also usually a waltz, where everyone dances to a musical waltz tune.
Traditionally, Mexican girls could not dance in public until they turned fifteen, except at school dances or at family events. Therefore, the quinceañera's waltz with the chamberlanes is the girl's first public dance.
Some families may choose to add a ceremonial components to the celebration, depending on local customs. Among them are the ceremony of the Change of Shoes, in which a family member presents the quinceañera with her first pair of high heel shoes; the Crowning ceremony, in which a close relative vests her with a crown on her head; and ceremonia de la ultima muñeca (literally "ceremony of the last doll"), during which her father presents her with a doll usually wearing a dress similar to the quinceañera herself. The ceremony of the last doll is based on a Maya tradition and is related to the birthday girl's receipt and renouncement of the doll as she grows into womanhood. Likewise, the ceremony of the change of shoes symbolizes the girl's passage into maturity.
Once all symbolic gestures have taken place, the dinner is commenced. At this point, the celebration reaches its high point; contracted musical groups begin playing music, keeping the guests entertained. The music is played while the guests dine, chat, mingle, and dance.
The next morning the family and closest friends may also attend a special breakfast, especially if they are staying with the family. Sometimes what is known as a recalentado (re-warming) takes place in which any food not consumed during the event of the night before is warmed again for a brunch type event.
Traditions from other hispanic countries
- Another tradition[where?] is to have 14 ladies (sometimes 7), and 14 escorts (sometimes 7) as a court. The escorts hold a flower (usually rose). and the ladies carry a candle. As the Quinceañera dances the waltz with her father she blows out one candle, then picks up one rose. This continues till all candles have been blown out and all roses picked up. The 14 candles blown out represent her 14 years of age. When the time comes to cut the cake the Quinceañera will blow out her last candle thus completing her 15 wishes. The flowers are to be given to her mother.
- Bar and Bat Mitzvah
- Cotillion ball
- Debutante balls
- Las Mañanitas
- Philippine Debut
- Rite of passage
- Sweet Sixteen
- U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
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- Härkönen, Heidi. "Girls' 15-Year Birthday Celebration as Cuban Women's Space Outside of the Revolutionary State". Journal of the Association of Social Anthropologists, July 2011
- Mitchell, Caludia and Reid-Walsh, Jacqueline. Girl Culture: Studying Girl Culture - A Readers' Guide. ABC-CLIO 2008, ISBN 978-0-313-33909-7, pp. 493–496 (online copy, p. 493, at Google Books)
- Stavans, Ilans (ed.) Quinceaņera. ABC-CLIO, 2010, ISBN 978-0-313-35824-1