Within the Hispanic community, it is a cultural tradition that a Quinceañera celebration be celebrated in two parts. It is customary that after a Quinceañera girl renew her baptismal vows with a mass, she be celebrated with a reception dinner referred to as the Quinceañera fiesta (party). More than just the average party where the birthday girl enjoys food and dance with guests, the Quinceañera fiesta is a time where she proves her coming into adulthood through different symbolical rituals such as a change of slippers, a first dance with a boy and giving away her last doll.
The formal entry
However, the first ritual to take place at a Quinceañera party is the formal entry by the Quinceañera and her court into the venue. During this time, her guests are seated at their dinner tables but stand and applaud her entrance. The Quinceañera and her court are then seated at a main table, which is typically placed in a focal point of the venue and adorned so that it differentiates from the guests’ tables. It is also customary for the Quinceañera’s chair to be throne-like to symbolize her importance in the celebration.
And although many families chose to do a toast honoring the birthday girl immediately after her entry, others choose to serve dinner first. The rule of thumb for the order of this usually depends on whether or not the reception started on time. The type of food and the way the dinner is served depends on the budget and the preference of the birthday girl. A sit down, buffet or family style dinner are the three most common ways to serve a Quinceañera dinner.
In honor of the Quinceañera, a toast is also done in her name. Her parents typically take this time to thank guests for sharing in the celebration while the padrinos take the opportunity to say a few encouraging words to the Quinceañera. But the most anticipated time during the toast is when the Quinceañera says a few words of her own. The Quinceañera’s toast is of significant importance since it represents her first words to her community as a young woman. It is here where she is expected to deliver a speech that conveys her feelings towards the celebration and where states her goals and aspirations as a young lady.
Equally symbolic are the rituals that are done on the dance floor and in front of the party guests. The ritual of the last doll is one of these. This is when the Quinceañera takes either her favorite doll or one purchased for the special occasion, and gifts it to a younger female sibling or family member. This represents that the birthday girl is leaving childhood behind and entering a more mature phase in her life.
Father and daughter moments
Another of these rituals includes the father of the Quinceañera. The changing of the shoes is the moment when her father changes her low-heel shoes to high heels, symbolizing the her passage into womanhood.
Another special father/daughter moment is the father and daughter waltz. During this time, the birthday girl and her father dance a special song symbolizing her first dance with her father as a young woman. Once the song nears its end, it’s typical for another waltz to begin, this one being for the Quinceañera and her chambelan. Here, the chambelan approaches the father asking for permission to dance with the Quinceañera. The father then gives his permission and allows the Quinceañera to dance with her chambelan, symbolizing her first dance with a young male. Half way through the waltz, the Quinceañera court joins the couple on the dance floor in a choreographed waltz. At the end of the waltz, members of the court go into the audience each taking one person onto the dance floor. And with that, the dance party begins.
While the guests enjoy themselves in music and dance, the birthday girl and her parents cut the Quinceañera cake, which is typically topped with a doll figurine that resembles the birthday girl. A slice of cake is then served at each of the guests seating areas, ready to be devoured in between dance breaks.
Read more about the Quinceañera mass here.