Every ethnicity and some religions seems to have its own celebrations when a child turns a certain age.  For most “Americans” 16 and 21 are always celebrated with big parties because 16 is when you can start to drive, and 21, well, we all know what that means.  In Jewish law boys and girls also have bat mitzvahs and bar mitzvahs when they turn ages 12 and 13.  Spanish people also have a coming of age celebration as well, called a Quinceañera.  This happens when a girl turns 15 traditionally, but for Spanish people in the United States this means that a girl has turned 15 years old.  It used to be many years ago that both males and females celebrated a Quinceañera – it was a rites of passage.  This is a celebration that works differently for both boys and girls and these days in modern times it tends to be more for young woman than young men.

In order to prepare young women for the Quinceañera in past times, they were separated from other kids that were other ages and they started to meet with more of the older elders in order to teach them about what their rules would be in the future, not only as members of their family, but members of their community in general.  In the official rites of passage, the family and community would then pray to the Gods and thank them for wives and mothers in the future.  Later on when a Quinceañera was done, missionaries used it as an event to claim their own personal affirmation of faith.  Instead of just vowing to serve their community they would now also vow to become good Christian mothers, as well as wives.

In modern times, the Quinceañera has changed yet again, but some of the traditional meanings and traditions still sets true.  Just in a very different way.  Nowadays when a family and community celebrates a Quinceañera for a young girl it’s a huge party that usually has certain foods and music that are relevant to the Spanish community like a mariachi band for example.  The food for this celebration isn’t some boring dinner, it’s a feast of sorts with all the works – sort of like a wedding.  Quinceañera’s are a huge part of the Spanish life though, so it shouldn’t a big surprise as to when parents start planning a Quinceañera for their daughter – it usually happens around infanthood, or even after a child is born.  The preparations for a celebration like this one though can cause quite a stir and takes a long time to get ready, usually from 6 months to a year!

If a young girl doesn’t have a dress passed down to her from someone else in the family, a new dress will have to be made; and this one is quite different than anything else because it includes pastel or bold colors and it’s very elaborate in its design.  Whether you are celebrating a Quinceañera from way back when or a more modern party, traditional “rules” may not apply, since it is more modern new traditions are made up all the time.  Nonetheless, here are just a few traditions your family or community may play out for this celebration:

-Getting a church blessing

-Getting 14 male and female escorts to represent you – this is the symbolic representation of the past 14 years of a girl’s life, males are usually called damas and females are called chambelanes

-Some 15 year old girls will either give their younger sister a porcelain doll to represent them leaving behind their childhood.  If a girl doesn’t have a sister, sometimes she will be given one final doll from her grandparents to represent the end of childhood and the entrance of adulthood

-Even something as simple as changing the type of shoes a young women wears can represent change.  Some families have the young woman go from flats to high heeled shoes to present becoming a good women

Traditional Food

Of course there is a big difference not only in traditions and how the party is set up when it comes to the past versus the present, and the food is no different.  Some ingredients that were available 100 years ago, are no longer available these days, so families and the community tends to always be ever changing.  I think this is one of the reasons why traditions like the ones above tend to never change because people, unlike ingredients, never really change who they are or their bloodline, they just grow.