The Quinceañera, or Quinceanero is a coming of age party for girls celebrated in many Latin American countries, Mexico, and among Latino immigrants. It is usually celebrated on a girl’s fifteenth birthday, and can range from a party composed primarily of family and close friends to elaborately arranged balls. It is somewhat similar to the sweet 16 party, but tends to be more formerly organized. It can also be seen as similar to the bat mitzvah, since the girl is officially a young woman after its celebration.
Customs on how to celebrate the Quinceañera are influenced by country, and also by the wealth of the parents. For families with small incomes, the most important aspects of the Quinceañera may be simply a small family party, and perhaps a celebratory mass. Clothing customs also differ, but it is quite common in many countries for the Quinceañera (the fifteen year old) to wear a pink dress. Girls may also be allowed, for the first time, to wear makeup or high heels.
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Some families forgo the traditional Quinceañera party in lieu of giving the 15 year old an expensive gift, such as a car or an opportunity to travel. Obviously some of these customs don’t translate in other parts of the world. It would be rare for a 15-year-old girl in the US who celebrates the Quinceañera to receive a car, since most states don’t allow people under the age of 16 to legally drive.
Some countries celebrate the Quinceañera in similar fashion to the debutante ball. The young girl may be considered the queen of the evening, be accompanied by 14 other young ladies who make up her “court.” She is often presented to a large group of partygoers by her father. The first part of the evening is formal and family-oriented, while the second half of the Quinceañera is more designed to please the teenage guests. Modern music may be played, and the party can last all night.
The ball type Quinceañera usually resembles a prom, and the honored girl gets, often for the first time, to have a male escort or date to the party. Since she is now a young woman, the Quinceañera usually marks the first time she can date with the family’s permission. Like a prom, families may rent large halls, country clubs or fancy hotel ballrooms to hold a Quinceañera. Next to a woman’s wedding, in some countries, this is probably the most exciting and elaborate celebration that will occur in her lifetime.
A less fancy, smaller party may be called a quince, and is frequently the choice of families with smaller incomes. The tradition of the Quinceañera has spread from Latin American families to other families in the United States. Some have adopted the quince as a way of celebrating an important milestone in a girl’s life, or have created elaborate sweet sixteen parties that echo the grandeur of the more formal Quinceañera parties.