While I was studying in Ottawa, the American priests often spoke about a thing called a “Quinceanera.” I had to ask several times what this was about, but always thought to myself (and probably said), “we don’t do that in Australia.”
Having returned to Australia, it seems we do! I celebrated my first Quinceanera yesterday. This is the explanation that was printed in the Liturgy booklet:
What is a Quinceañera?
It is a traditional celebration of life and gratitude to God on the occasion of the fifteenth birthday of a young Hispanic girl. The custom is a celebration of a young girl (La Quinceañera), and a recognition of her journey from childhood to maturity.
In El Salvadorean, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central and South American traditions, the custom can be referred to as a Quince (XV) Años, La Quinceañera, or a Fiesta Rosa. The celebration traditionally begins with a religious ceremony, a Thanksgiving Mass (a blessing of the Quinceañera).
A celebration follows after the ceremony. The Quinceañera (changing from flats to high-heeled shoes, symbolizing her transition from child to young adult). After dinner, the Quinceañera dances the traditional first waltz with her father and grandfather.
The Quinceañera’s court can be comprised of young girls (called a Dama), young men (called Chambelan or Escorte or Galan) or a combination of both—traditionally up to 14 persons in the court, which with the Quinceañera, would total 15 young people. Nowadays it is more common to only have a court comprised of six or seven young girls (Maids of Honour) and boys. The Quinceañera traditionally wears a formal pink gown.
“Mis Quince Años” means “My fifteenth birthday.”
Mass began with la Quinceanera entering with her court in the Entrance procession. Following the homily, sponsors testified on her behalf, along with her parents. She then promised that she would follow Jesus all her life and strive fully to live the Christian life, and then she renewed her Baptismal promises. She then made an Act of Thankgiving through the intercession of the Virgin Mary. Gifts of a bible and rosary were blessed, praying that they would “be a source of joy” for her in her journey to God. Mass proceeded in the usual manner, and at its conclusion a gift of flowers was left at Our Lady’s shrine. The reception followed Mass.
It was a beautiful celebration, and a wonderful way to affirm the faith in the approach to adulthood.