Important Quinceañera Traditions & the History Behind Them

Updated March 3, 2022
Family at Quinceanera

Ever wondered what a Quinceañera is all about? Taking a closer look at Quinceañera customs and traditions might help you understand the importance and cultural significance of planning such an opulent affair to celebrate the big milestone birthday of a girl turning 15 years old.

Quinceañera and Its Origins

Young Couple Dancing at Quinceanera

A Quinceañera is a girl's 15th birthday occasion widely celebrated in Latin American culture. It's an important milestone celebration in Hispanic tradition, signifying a girl's transition from childhood to womanhood.

The history of Quinceañera dates back to the 1500's. It is believed Quinceañera traditions started with either Spanish conquerors or the Aztecs, which may explain the infusion of the Aztec's heritage along with Spanish and Catholic traditions into Quinceañera birthday celebrations.

It was customary for the Aztecs to prepare their tribe members and organize a special ceremony to celebrate their transition to adulthood. The Catholic Quinceañera Mass tradition, for example, was initiated by Spanish people.

Even though Quinceañeras have evolved with time, many Mexican families still try to keep the traditions alive. From Quinceañera gowns with a high price tag to a lavish reception composed of a long order of events with financial costs sponsored by family members, these Quinceañera traditions will transport you to a foreign culture that can be very exciting and rewarding to learn about if you are willing.

Religious Catholic Mass

Hispanic family celebrating quinceanera with priest in Catholic church

Traditionally, families kick off the Quinceañera celebration by attending a mass in honor of the soon-to-be 15-year-old girl. A Quinceañera catholic mass is a religious ritual in which the girl is presented in front of her community, family members, and the priest. The birthday honoree enters the church accompanied by her parents, followed by the padrinos (godparents), and the court of honor. During the religious ceremony, the girl receives Holy Communion and reaffirms her faith and commitment to God. In addition, the quince girl receives special gifts with religious significance, such as a crown or tiara, a ring, a bible, and/or a rosary. The bible and rosary represent her religious faith, for example. As she exits the church, a flower bouquet is left behind, which is replaced by a scepter.

Photoshoot

Family taking photos of young woman in quinceanera gown in backyard

If you have seen a girl dressed in a wedding like gown accompanied by a photographer while going for a stroll at a local park, that means you experienced one of the Quinceañera traditions. It typically happens after the Catholic Mass. While the quince pictures are being taken, guests are arriving at the reception for a cocktail hour.

Quinceañera Reception

After mass, a Quinceañera reception is held, typically at home, venue, or banquet hall. The celebration consists of dinner, dancing, and other traditional events that are presented in a certain order during the reception.

Quinceañera parties in the United States can cost parents between $5,000 to $20,000. In Mexico, many parents, even with no disposable income, feel the pressure to observe the tradition of hosting an extravagant party. So, family members may contribute financially to make this fairy tale birthday celebration a dream come true for the quince girl.

Traditions of a Quinceañera Reception

A Quinceañera reception typically includes the following traditions:

The Introduction of Court of Honor

Friends at a Coming of Age Party

The court of honor's names are introduced to the guests as they enter the room.

The Presentation of the Quinceañera

The Quinceañera is presented to the guests.

Crowning the Quinceañera

Mother placing tiara on daughters head

The mother does the honors of crowning the Quinceañera. The crown represents the birthday honoree as being a daughter of God.

The Last Doll

Girl and little sister at quinceanera

The parents or godparents give a doll to the Quinceañera, typically a porcelain kind, symbolizing the last doll the quince girl will receive as she enters young womanhood. Or, the Quinceañera gifts an old doll to a youngest sister during the ceremony.

The Change of Shoes

Father putting on teenage girls shoes at quinceanera

The father changes the Quinceañera's flat shoes to high heels, symbolizing the transition from childhood to adulthood.

The Waltz

Father and daughter dancing at quinceañera

The Quinceañera shares a dance with her father, symbolizing the first dance as a young woman. A dance is also shared with the main chambelan, also known as Escort of Honor (date for the day). Lastly, the court of honor, formed by seven chambelanes and seven damas, all join the Quinceañera on the dance floor for a choreographed dance.

The Toast

Quinceanera girl toasting with family

The parents thank the guests for attending such an important event in their daughter's life. The Quinceañera also gives a speech, symbolizing her first words as a young adult.

A Fairy Tale Celebration

A Quinceañera is definitely a fairy tale for many Hispanic girls. From selecting princess-like gowns to extravagant Quinceañera cakes, a considerate amount of time is invested into planning a Quinceañera to ensure this once in a lifetime celebration runs smoothly from beginning to end for a memorable and much anticipated event.

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Important Quinceañera Traditions & the History Behind Them