The word “Quinceañera” refers to two things. It’s the word that describes the coming of age ritual where a young girl renews her baptismal promises and is presented to her community as a young lady, and it also refers to the young girl whom is being celebrated.
A traditional Quinceañera is typically celebrated around the girl’s 15th birthday and is celebrated with a party and a mass, with the latter being of more spiritual value since it is the Quinceanera’s presentation before God and her community, and a promise to honor herself and her religion.
In order to understand a Quinceañera mass, it is important to know that unlike a baptism or confirmation, a Quinceañera is not a Catholic sacrament. However, it is a significant cultural ritual within the Hispanic community that solidifies the Quinceañera’s commitment to her faith. During the Quinceañera mass, the young girl receives Holy Communion, makes an act of consecration to the Virgin Mary, gifts the Virgin Mary with a bouquet of flowers, and receives gifts that are blessed by the priest.
Like the baptism and confirmation sacraments, different symbolic rituals represent the Quinceañera’s rite of passage from childhood into womanhood. The Bible, Quinceañera crown, floral bouquet and the people that accompany her, all hold spiritual meaning during the religious ceremony.
Preparing for the Quinceañera Mass
But before the mass takes place, a traditional Quinceañera requires that the celebrated attend preparatory classes in her parish to help her prepare for this important time in her life. Requirements for the preparation courses vary from parish to parish, but for the most part require that the celebrated be baptized, had received her first Communion and be enrolled or be finished with her confirmation classes. Some courses are designed for both the soon-to-be Quinceañera and her parents, while others simply require the celebrated to attend on her own. Although most preparatory classes are weekly courses that last a few months, some parishes hold extensive yearlong classes and others require attending only a one-time seminar. Once all the requirements are met, the date for the mass can be set and the first planning steps such as choosing the Quinceañera’s court may begin.
Choosing the Padrinos and Quinceañera court
Typically, the padrinos (also referred to as “sponsors”) are chosen for being a stable, married couple that will ideally serve as mentors for the young girl. Their main role as padrinos is to help keep the young girl on a path of spirituality and guide her into becoming a positive contributor to her community.
The chambelan de honor, or the “escort of honor”, is a young man that is chosen to be the Quinceañera’s date for the day. His role is an important one as well, since he symbolizes the Quinceañera’s first male companion as a young lady. An older brother, cousin or friend of the celebrated typically fills the role of the chambelan. In traditional ceremonies, a court of seven couples also accompanies the Quinceañera. Like the chambelan, the seven couples are usually 13 to 18-year-old friends and family of the Quinceañera who represent her social community.
The religious ceremony
Come the day of the celebration, the Quinceañera mass begins with a group progression into the church. Escorted by her parents or guardians, the Quinceañera leads the walk followed by her padrinos, the chambelan and the court. A priest greets the Quinceañera at the altar where a designated chair has been placed for her at the altar as well.
Unlike a typical Sunday mass where the biblical readings are directed for the entire congregation, in a Quinceañera mass the reading is made, for the most part, directly to the celebrated. Themes of youth, eternal love to God, becoming a strong woman, and remaining true to her religion against all adversity are customary topics for a Quinceañera mass.
Symbolisms in the mass
During the mass, the traditional Quinceañera crown (tiara), Bible, rosary, jewelry and bouquet of natural roses hold special significance. Usually following the first gospel, the priest blesses these items and makes reference to the Bible and rosary as symbolizing the eternal word of God, and the crown as symbolizing the crown of life that God gifts the Quinceañera.
Another symbolical part of the mass is the act of consecration to the Virgin Mary. This is when the Quinceañera takes her bouquet of natural flowers and gifts it to the Virgin Mary by placing it at her altar. It is there where in prayer, the Quinceañera asks the Virgin Mary for guidance and strength and vows to follow in her footsteps as a giving and caring woman.
Upon returning to her seat at the altar, the Quinceañera is given a bouquet of flowers by her padrinos to replace the one she offered the Virgin Mary. This bouquet is made of artificial flowers purposely done so to serve the Quinceañera as a keepsake for years to come.
The Eucharist and the Holy Communion then follow, and the Quinceañera mass is completed with a final blessing and a round of applause for the Quinceañera’s baptismal renewal.
The progression out of the church
Unlike the walk into the church where the Quinceañera is escorted by her parents, it is the chambelan de honor that accompanies her down the aisle and out the temple. Her parents, padrinos and Quinceañera court follow her exit.
Once outside, the Quinceañera exchanges embraces with her guests and takes pictures with them and her priest. Also customary after the mass is for the Quinceañera, her parents, padrinos, closest friends and family members to visit a park or public place for the official Quinceañera portraits. During this time, all other guests are thanked by the Quinceañera’s parents for accompanying them to the religious mass and are encouraged to rejoin them at the dinner reception later that afternoon.