Two weeks ago we attended our first Minnesota quinceañera. The Quinceañera (15th birthday girl) was Mex’s great niece and, although we had a three week old in tow, I didn’t want to miss the event. In Mexico, a girl’s 15th birthday is like an American Sweet 16 party on steroids. The closest American event it compares to in size and ceremony is a wedding (or at least events traditional in my family). Fifteen is the age in Mexico where girls make the transformation from a young girl in to women. Traditionally, this was the age they were considered ready for marriage (the marriage readiness is not really the case in modern Mexico where education is becoming more valued and girls are more encouraged to attend college).
We arrived to the church pretty late so did not see much of the ceremony or prayers. There were a few family pictures and then everyone left the church to go to Plaza Verde on Lake Street for the reception party. I am so glad we got there early because soon after we arrived, the Plaza security stopped allowing people to enter because the reception hall was over capacity with almost 400 people in attendance. There was a mariachi band and a DJ, but the music was extremely loud for our little boy. I tried to wrap a blanket around his tiny ears to block some of the sound but we ended up not staying very long.
There was a head table where the quinceañera and her Court of Honor sit. This consists of chambelanes (her closest guy friends, usually around six) and her closest
girl friends or family members with whom she wants to share the spotlight. Many items are traditionally used in the ceremony such as a tiara, scepter, bible, and last doll. The last doll is used as part of the ceremony, representing the last of her childhood items because now she must focus on being a young lady.
There are many traditions throughout the celebration. The chambelanes participate with the birthday girl in a series of dances that start off the evening. Then there is a Changing of the Shoes, where the father and mother change the young girl’s flat shoes to high heels, symbolizing the Quinceañera’s transformation from a little girl to a young lady. It is also traditional for the parents to replace the headpiece worn by the girl during the church ceremony with a Tiara. This makes her a “princess” before God and the world, giving her the ability to face challenges in her future.