Cuban Quinceanera Traditions

by Genevieve Van Wyden, Demand Media
    The quinceanera honoree has just reached an important milestone in her life.

    The quinceanera honoree has just reached an important milestone in her life.

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    The quinceanera ---- it looks so much like a wedding, with the dress, the tiara, the attendants and the reception. Cuban families celebrate this coming-of-age tradition as their daughters approach the age of 15. In many families, planning for the quinceanera begins when the girl is barely 13. As the girl's parents plan for the big day, they do not forget about the traditions or symbolism of every item featured on the big day.

    History

    The tradition of the Cuban quinceanera stems from the European introduction to society ---- the young woman's debut. For a Cuban girl just reaching her 15th birthday, this is likely to be the first time she wears a long, formal dress to a social event that includes a dance. For Cuban families, as with families from South and Central America, the quinceanera is a tradition dating back several generations. "La Puesta de Largo," known in English as wearing a long dress, comes from the Spanish tradition of honoring girls entering puberty, notes The Cuban Traditions Site.

    Quince's Dress

    One of the traditions of the quinceanera is the dress. This dress signifies the birthday girl's beauty before her family. To signify her purity, the dress is traditionally white, although "Once Upon a Quinceanera" author Julia Alvarez notes on Penguin.com that the dress may be pink, with white being reserved for brides. The quince's dress is like a ball gown and similar to a wedding dress in every respect, except it lacks a train.

    Quince's Symbols

    The quince receives several symbolic items from family members. These include her first set of high heel shoes, her "last doll" and a tiara. All of these items signify her passage from girlhood to young womanhood. The ceremony begins with a church service, during which the quince wears flat shoes. Her father (or papi) changes her shoes from the flats to the heels during the party after the service. Her mother (mami) crowns her with the tiara, and her godmother (madrina) gives her the doll. During the party, the quince either tosses the doll to all of the waiting girls, much like a bride tosses her bouquet, or she may give her last doll to her younger sister, which symbolizes further her passage into womanhood.

    Gifts to Quince

    The Cuban quince's family gives her several gifts, also rich in symbolism for this oh, so special day. Her parents present her with either a bracelet or ring, symbolizing the circle of life. She may also receive a pair of earrings, reminding her to always listen to God. Her family gives her a Bible, reminding her of her relationship with God. She may also get a crucifix or a rosary.

    Chambelanes

    The traditional Cuban quinceanera resembles a wedding ---- right down to the attendants. The quince's court consists of 14 girls (damas) and 14 chambelanes, or escorts. The quince also has her own chambelan (of course). The members of her court represent the first 14 years of her life. The court attends the quince during the church service and at the party afterward.

    Dance

    Dance features quite prominently in the quinceanera celebration. For example, the honoree will dance her first dance as an adult with her father. It may be a waltz or a traditional Cuban dance, the danzon, according to Alvarez. She will then go on to dance with family members before joining her escort and court members for a less formal celebration. Of course, the song played for the danzon has to be one with Spanish lyrics. In South Florida, during the party, family members light 15 candles on the quinceanera's cake as they give the quince a special dedication, reports the website BellaOnline.

    About the Author

    Genevieve Van Wyden began writing in 2007. She has written for “Tu Revista Latina” and owns three blogs. She has worked as a CPS social worker, gaining experience in the mental-health system. Van Wyden earned her Bachelor of Arts in journalism from New Mexico State University in 2006.

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