The term Quinceañera may refer to the girl turning 15 or to the celebration in her honour, either the religious or social events or both.
The Quinceañera is a highly Catholic tradition although it is celebrated in other Christian churches too. It is almost given that were the Spanish Conquerors who brought the tradition to Mexico. In reality, the celebration as is today, is a Christian adaptation of the Aztec Ceremony of Woman. Even before of the Spanish Conquest, the Aztecs celebrated their girls when reached womanhood. In such ceremony, other than the banquet and religious presentation, the mothers gave advice to their daughters exhorting them for good behaviour. The Conquerors took the pagan celebration converting it to Chrisitanism as they did with other ceremonies in an effort to Catholizing the Aztec people. The Aztec dance was replaced by a Waltz and the temple by the Christian altar.
The Quinceañera may or may not include a reception, banquet and dance but the really important part is the Thanks Action Mass.
The Mass or presentation on the temple is a Thanks Action and a preparation for the new challenges of the girl that is almost a woman. The Dress, bouquet, the crown, the ring and other accessories have a special significance.
The celebrated girl sits in a honour seat near the altar. She can be accompanied by up to 14 Maids (representing her first 14 years) with their respective Chamberlains. A Honour Chamberlain (escort) also accompanies the Quinceañera. her Maids are pick among other girls that recently turned 15 or are close to.
The Thanks Prayer and the Blessing of the gifts during the Mass and the Eucharist are the culmination of the Mass. Nonetheless, nothing equals the emotive moment in which the girl gives a flowers bouquet to Virgin Mary, most likely to Our Lady of Guadeloupe. According to the family's wealth, The dress can be more simple or sophisticated but it is always special in pastel colours. White is utilized as Dress colour in the United States but in Mexico, such is reserved for the bride in weddings. The rest of accessories must match the dress colour and decoration.
After the Mass, a reception is held that includes a banquet and a dance in honour of the Quinceañera. Other options ate a Trip or on an more American style, the gift of a Car. Since the Trip or a Car can be given at any other occasion, Most girls opt for a Quinceañera Reception, which is a once in a life time event.
Mexican children generally have a piñata for their birthdays. A Quinceañera has her last Piñata on her fifteen. This is optional since in the origins, the Piñata was utilized in other religious ceremonies. The incorporation of the Piñata to the birthdays is a modern tradition.
The banquette is based on traditional Mexican food and can be as simple or sophisticated according to the family's wealth.
The First Waltz
Mexican girls cannot dance in a public event before their 15th birthday. They may dance in school and family events..
When they Christianized the Ceremony of Woman, The Spanish priest added the European touch that is still maintained. The Quinceañera, accompanied of her Honour Chamberlain and her Maids with their respective chamberlains perform a Traditional Waltz.
The Waltz dance may include traditional movements or some of new design. The music can be live with a band on with a modern digital sound system. The Puerto Rican Chayane's "Tiempo de Vals" is widely utilized as an alternative to the traditional waltzes.
The Quinceañera dances her first waltz with her father or in case he is not present, with a close relative or friend of the family.
Following is the Waltz with the Padrinos (Godfathers) although this is not exactly a waltz. It is a popular music song in which the celebrated dances with selected godfathers from 20 seconds to a minute each, depending of the number of participating godfathers.
The Doll and the Surprise gift.
As the Piñata, The doll is the last one the girl will receive for a birthday. This, a surprise gift and other gifts are presented before or after the Waltz. This can also be omitted.
A traditional song called "Las Mañanitas", usually performed by a Mariachi band is sung after the waltz or at the time of the Cake. The Mariachi band usually plays other selected songs too. Las Mañanitas may be played at the girl's house before leaving for the church, at the exit from the church or at the reception.
After all these events takes place the popular Dance. The Quinceañera breaks the dance open being the first coming out to dance and inviting everybody else to dance.
The Cake is generally cut during a dance break. The cake is usually of great colour and size. The cake colour and ornaments must match the Quinceañera's dress. She cuts it and is the first one to eat from it.
The Honour Godfathers are who accompany the Quinceañera at the Mass. Other godfathers participate donating some articles utilized by the girl during the Mass or at the reception. Some godfathers participate in either ceremony giving the gifts personally as the Bible, the Crown, the Bouquet etc. Others donate articles the girl wears from home as the bracelet, the ring, etc. Traditionally, the Honour Godfathers help with the cost of the Dress. There is also godfathers that assist with the banquet, the room and other expenses
There are regional variations that may change the order or form of the
events. For instance, the Quinceañera may arrive with the crown
on or be crowned during the mass or during the Waltz.