The quinceanera is a Latino coming-of-age of tradition that celebrates a girl's entrance into womanhood. Although the quinceanera used to take place when a young woman turned 15, many girls today choose to combine it with the Americanized concept of a "sweet 16" party. The quinceanera is an extremely significant event in a young girl's life, and many look forward to it anxiously from a very young age. A quinceanera consists of two parts: the ceremony and the fiesta.
In the quinceanera ceremony, which takes place at a church, the girl is symbolically transformed into a woman in front of her friends and family. Similar to a wedding ceremony, the quinceanera includes a processional, attendants and may have a religious element; among devout families, the ceremony includes a traditional mass or religious service. The ceremony is the most important part of the quinceanera, as it makes the transition to womanhood official.
During the ceremony, the girl is accompanied by 14 young couples in addition to her own attendant. These 15 couples, including the girl herself, make up the quinceanera court. During the ceremony, the girl is crowned with a tiara and may be presented with a doll, the last of her childhood. The most significant moment is when her father removes her flat shoes and replaces them with high heels. This is the moment that she officially becomes a woman in the eyes of her community.
The fiesta, or reception, is a celebration of the girl's entrance into womanhood. It is a time for her friends, family and potential suitors to congratulate her and interact with her on an adult level for the first time. Quinceanera fiestas include food, music, toasts and dancing. They can range from small and intimate to large and extravagant. Traditionally, both immediate and extended family assist with the cost of the quinceanera reception.
Immediately following the ceremony, the young woman and her father open the fiesta with a dance; the clebrant is also expected to dance with her mother. Another important event is the quinceanera court waltz, in which all 15 couples take the dance floor. In addition to dancing, gifts are exchanged; each guest gives the young woman a present, and in return she provides them with a party favor.
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