Part 2 of The Meaning of the Quinceañera Celebration

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By Itzel Cordova

Read Part 1, which appeared in the June 2012 BorderLore, here.

A big part of a quinceañera celebration is the music. Many families hire a band and others hire DJs. Sometimes families will hire both. When the band starts playing, the court of honor proceeds to present themselves. In some venues, a member of the band or the DJ will call the names of the damas, chambelanes, padrinos and madrinas by name as they come up, and then they call the parents and lastly the quinceañera.

After the court of honor has been presented, the quinceañera takes a seat in the middle of the dance floor in a chair. The exchange of the high heels is about to take place. If there happens to be a madrina and padrino for the high heel, they bring the pair of high heels on a heart-shaped pillow over to the father of the quinceañera. This is highly symbolic moment in the celebration. The ritual signifies the change from girl to woman. The father takes his daughter’s flats shoes off and replaces them with high heels.

From a Quinceañera Celebration
From a Quinceañera Celebration

The First Dance
Before the age of fifteen, a young girl is not allowed to dance with a partner or at public events. The day of her quinceañera, she will be able to enjoy the band and dance with friends and family, and it is after this event that she can now dance at public events. However, the first dance the quinceañera must have is with her father. There are many songs dedicated to the quinceañera’s first dance with her father. They speak about the transformation from childhood to womanhood, but also speak about always being daddy’s little girl. My sister and I both danced the same song with our father since it held special meaning to us. Below is a selection of lyrics from the Vals (waltz) that my sister and I danced with our father:

Antes De Empezar Esta Canción
Te Quiero Pedir Perdón
Si en Algo te He Ofendido

Sé Que es Muy Difícil Para Mi
Lo Que Te tengo Que decir
Mi Tesoro Más Querido

Estas Cumpliendo 15 Años hoy
De todo Mundo Tienes la Atención
Estas Rebosante de Alegría

Y Yo te Deseo Felicidad Porque
Eres y serás Mi Niñita Mas Querida
Porque Un Día Como Hoy
Me Alegraste el Corazón

Iluminaste Mi Hogar
Con Dicha Y Felicidad
Con tu Presencia
Amor Mio

Y Si Me Miras Llorar
Sera De felicidad
Porque Aun te Tengo conmigo

Hoy Dejas Atrás A Tu Niñez
Pasas De Niña a Mujer
Ya Serás Adolecente
Sera Muy Difícil Para Ti esta Etapa
En tu Vivir
No Me gustaría Perderte

En Mis Brazos
Un Día Te Arrulle
Y Aunque Nunca Lo Pensé
Hoy Te tengo Todavía

Bailaras Conmigo el Primer Vals
Para Mi es Como recordar
Que de Niña Te Dormía!

After her first dance, the quinceañera then proceeds to dance the traditional waltz or Vals with her court of honor. This can be done in many different ways depending on the kind of court the quinceañera has. If the quinceañera has a court made up of damas and chambelanes, there is usually a choreographed waltz where the quinceañera dances with all those accompanying her. The quinceañera and her chambelan de honor also dance with the padrinos and madrinas and her parents. Since I only had girls escorting me, my chambelan de honor and I only danced with my padrinos and madrinas. It has now become popular for the quinceañeras and her chambelanes or damas to dance to a modern or hip hop song after her waltz. The quinceañera and those who accompany her change into something more hip and dance to a choreographed danced that they practiced. This is just for the enjoyment of the guests.

Tradition, and the Toast
The court of honor proceeds to the table of honor. They give a toast to the quinceañera. Gathering next to the quinceañera, a member from the band says a toast and asks all the guests to toast as well. Some families provide the tables with wine and wine glasses for the toast, but one can toast with whatever one is drinking. After the toast, the professional photographer hired takes pictures to capture all the moments. After this, the party can officially begin. The band or the music starts playing and everyone is invited to the dance floor.

While people are dancing, drinking and having fun, food is being served. What I have known as traditional Mexican fiesta food has been barbacoa, or shredded style beef, with a pasta salad and beans. That is why when my sister and I had our quinceañeras, our uncle gave us each a cow from his ranch to make the food. People are hired to pass out the food among the guests. When a quinceañera celebration is held at a venue that offers catering, more gourmet or American dishes may be served.

After about half way through the night, the band or DJ takes a break, but only to do another quinceañera ritual. As mentioned earlier, there is a large doll adorned in a quinceañera style dress that sits on the table of honor. This symbolizes the last doll of the quinceañera. At this time, the quinceañera along with her chambelan de honor go to the middle of the dance floor. The quinceañera stands on a chair. She may be blind folded or simply closes her eyes. At first all the damas and young girls are asked to come to the center as the quinceañera will now throw her doll for someone to catch. It used to be that the quinceañera would throw the doll that a person would catch, but now there are times where the quinceañera will throw a flower because the doll (won by the girl who catches the flower) is porcelain. All the girls gather around and walk or dance in a circle until the quinceañera throws the doll or flower and one lucky girl catches it. This is the quinceañera letting go of her “niñez” or childhood.

Afterwards, it is the boy’s turn. It is still the quinceañera that does the throwing, but the chambelan de honor is now at her side. This time, the quinceañera will throw a small heart shaped pillow for a boy to catch and keep. Just as the girls did, all the chambelanes and boys gather around. They dance and walk in a circle until the quinceañera throws the pillow for a lucky boy to catch. Finally, the girl and boy who caught the doll and pillow get together with the quinceañera to take a picture. Then a song plays for the two winning people to dance. It is usually a traditional zapateado or a fast-paced song. This is always an exciting part. I have won the doll on various occasions in my cousin’s quinceañeras (where I have been a madrina) and at friend’s quinceañeras, where I have been a dama.

As the celebration comes to an end, the guests depart, and all that is left is the quinceañera with select friends and family. They pick up the gifts and cake to take home. This event will always be remembered. The quinceañera has many things to remind her of the amazing night. She has her dress of course, her tiara, her “last” doll, the Bible and rosary from the mass of thanks, the guest sign-in book, a quinceañera ring, artificial bouquet, an album with all the event pictures and a video put together by the photographer. The quinceañera is one of my favorite traditions and I am glad I have been able to experience it from many sides.

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