Today's ceremonies embrace religious traditions, and the virtues of family and social responsibility. The custom is a celebration of the young girl (la Quinceanera), and a recognition of her journey from childhood to maturity. The celebration highlights God, family, friends, music, food, and dance.
In the Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central and South American traditions, the custom can be referred to as a Quince (XV) Años, a Quinces, or a Quinceanera. The celebration traditionally begins with a religious ceremony. A reception is held in the home or a banquet hall. The festivities include food and music, and in most, a choreographed waltz or dance performed by the Quinceanera and her court.
The quinceañera celebration begins with a thanksgiving mass. The birthday girl, the quinceañera, arrives with her parents, court of honor and godparents. The quinceanera choses the court of honor which includes boys and girls in pairs of similar age as the quinceanera. The birthday girl usually wears a white dress to symbolize purity. The Quinceanera's court can be comprised of young girls (called a Dama), young men (called Chambelán or Escorte or Galán) or a combination of both - traditionally up to 14 persons in the court, which with the Quinceanera, would total 15 young people.
The Quinceanera traditionally wears a ball gown, with her court usually dressed in gowns and tuxedos. Guests usually receive small tokens, cápias and cerámicas, to commemorate the celebration. An XV pillow is provided for the young girl to kneel on during the ceremony.
At the mass, a rosary, or necklace with a pendant is given to the teenager by her godparents. The Quinceanera is also given a tiara which hallmarks that the quinceañera will always be a princess. Then the teenager leaves her flower bouquet on the altar. After the thanksgiving mass, the reception follows where the birthday girl receives gifts. A highlight of the reception includes the birthday girl dancing with her "chambelan de honor", and her court of honor. The dances are choreographed often months in advance. Practice prepare the dancers to perform beautiful and sometimes very entertaining and fun dances.
There are five main parts to the reception: (Dancing is a major focus)1. The formal entry
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 ever.
It is customary for the Quinceanera to receive the following gifts for her ceremony:• Tiara bracelet or ring earrings cross or medal or necklace
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 similar dress as 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.
At the reception, there is always the toast to the Quinceanera, known as the brindis. With specially decorated champagne glasses for the Quinceanera, the guests are invited to offer their congratulations and best wishes. The Quinceanera Doll, symbolizing the perfection of the event and the Quinceanera, is used as both a decoration and a keepsake. In some customs, the cápias (printed ribbons with the Quinceanera's name and date) are pinned to the doll, and the Quinceanera circulates among her guests, thanking them for their presence and presenting them with a memento taken from the doll. The XV Años is an honored celebration that remains a major even in the teenager's life.