Cultural traditions in the U.S. prompt many young girls to look forward to their 16th birthdays with such anticipation. It is a magical time when girls transition from girlhood into womanhood. By the time they reach 16, their bodies have already been metamorphosing for several years, budding with breasts, feminine curves and flooded with the hormones that make them project a wide range of new feelings. Perhaps this tradition would prompt more people native to the U.S. to learn more about a similar tradition among Latin girls: the quinceañera.
The major difference between the quinceañera and sweet sixteen celebrations is that the quinceañera happens when a girl turns 15. Families and friends can make this celebration quite lavish through food, festivities and dress. Sometimes the expenses for this affair rival those for a formal wedding.
The major thing everyone will be looking for when a quince girl walks into the room is her dress. Traditionally, it is pastel pink or white satin with same-color lace overlays. Dresses are also adorned in rhinestones or jewels. The quince girl also wears a sparkling tiara and carries a bible or prayer book in her hands.
Usually, the honoree has just come from a special Catholic mass, where she has received a special blessing from her priest and recommitted herself to God and to protecting her own virginity. She leaves a bouquet of flowers at the altar or at a statue of the Virgin Mary when she goes to this mass. She also gives a porcelain doll or a stuffed animal to a younger sister or relative to symbolize her own transition into womanhood.
As she arrives, her parents present her to the people who are attending her quinceañera. They may choose to hire dancers to entertain the crowd just before or after her entrance. Fourteen of her friends, her damas or maidens, accompany her on this walk. They each represent a year of her life. Chambelans or male escorts accompany the damas. After the grand entrance, attendees typically dance, socialize and eat.
There is one other ritual of this celebration a young Latina gets to perform with her father. Throughout the entire celebration, she wears a flat shoe or slipper. After the party is winding to an end, her father removes the slipper and places a pair of heels on his daughter. This is her father’s way of acknowledging that his little girl is a woman. Since the rule of Aztec high priests, Latin cultures have been honoring this tradition.