The Quinceañera or Quince Años (sometimes represented XV Años, meaning "fifteen years") is, in some Spanish-speaking regions of the Americas, a young woman's celebration of her fifteenth birthday, which is celebrated in a unique and different way from her other birthdays. In some countries, such as Puerto Rico or Peru, the word Quinceañero is used instead of Quinceañera when referring to the celebration.
The word is also used to refer to the young woman whose 15th birthday is being celebrated (analogous to the word cumpleañera for "birthday girl"). The closest equivalents to the Quinceañera in the English-speaking world are the sweet sixteen or, in more affluent communities, a debutante ball at the age of eighteen. In some cases, the birthday girl has a choice of a quinceañera, a trip, or a car.
This celebration marks the transition from the childhood to womanhood of a Quinceañera. It serves as a way to acknowledge that a young woman has reached maturity.
While this traditional celebration is still practiced nowadays in Latin America and Latino communities in North America, it is sometimes observed by other events that focus more on the quinceañera's wishes (e.g. world traveling). However, in some cities the Baile de las Debutantes (Debutantes' Ball) is also celebrated.
Some other traditions observed in the celebration include the giving and throwing of a quince doll. The display doll signifies the young lady's last doll as a child and the throwing doll, usually a Barbie type or any other is fine too, is thrown by the young lady to the other female children in attendance much as the garter is thrown in a wedding. The celebrant is wearing flats, or flat shoes for the celebration but after the inaugural dance the father of the young lady, who is sitting in a chair in the center of the dance floor, removes her flats (girls shoes) and puts her high heels on signifying her becoming a young lady.
The traditional color of a quinceañera's dress is pink but now in modern cultures they are letting the girl pick the color of the dress and they wear a tiara because she is a princess in God's eyes that night. She holds a court with 14 girls (primaveras) and 15 boys (chambelanes) which including herself would equal 30 people, or, 15 couples (to represent each year). At the party the court does a waltz and a surprise dance. The girl also dances with her father but first changes from flats to heels to represent the first time she can wear them (the same with makeup). She could also get a doll with the exact same dress she has on to signify that this will be the last doll she ever will receive. In the past the party would show the girl is ready to be married, but now in today's culture it is so the girl can date.
In Argentina, the birthday girl usually goes to a special mass dedicated to her with her family and, if she wants, her closest friends.
The actual party with all her friends and all her relatives usually starts when the quinceañera enters the room by walking arm-in-arm with her father, or she goes down a set of stairs while a song chosen by her plays in the background. At the bottom, she meets with her father and they first dance to a waltz then she dances with her male relatives or friends. Then, she may dance with her boyfriend and if she doesn't have one she can throw a buquet and whoever catches it may dance with her. She may also do the flower and candle ritual before this part.
Then the birthday girl can dance or sing to entertain her guests (this is optional). After eating, the modern music plays and there's a "Carnaval Carioca." Then the guests dance and dance and dance until they eat breakfast and leave.
In the Mexican tradition, if the quinceañera is Roman Catholic, the festivities begin with a Thanksgiving Mass (Misa de Acción de Gracias), at which the quinceañera arrives in formal dress (usually of color to her choice) accompanied by her parents, godparents, a number of maids of honor (damas) and chamberlains (chambelanes)(also called escorts) ranging in number anywhere from seven to 14 couples. After the Mass, the quinceanera usually goes on ride with her court, usually to a mall, park or photo shoot. In the evening, she arrives at the reception hall as she is greeted by friends and family. After a dinner, the quinceañera dances the traditional first waltz with her father and male relatives. She also recieves her "last doll" or "ultima muñeca". A crowning usually follows, in which the Quinceanera's "madrina" changes her crown to a tiara. After her presentation, the dance starts and usually lasts until 6 am.
The tradition is also for the quinceañera to just have 14 chambelanes but in total 15
In Cuba it is more of a big party. It may include a choreographed group dance, in which 15 couples waltz around the Quinceañera, who is led by one of the top dancers or her boyfriend. Sometimes the choreography includes four or six other skilled dancers called Escortes (escorts). They are allowed to dance around the Quinceañera and are usually dancers adept at improvisation whose movements are intended to highlight the central couple for the spectators. They are also allowed to dress in different colored tuxedos.
Fifteenth birthday celebrations were very popular in Cuba until the late 1970s. The custom entered the country partly via Spain, but its major influence was French. Wealthy families, who could afford to rent luxurious halls at country clubs or 4/5-star hotels and to hire choreographers, were the actual pioneers of Quinceañeras. Although lower-income families could not afford the same display of wealth, they too started to celebrate Quinceañeras, which they called Quinces. Those celebrations usually took place at the home of the Quinceañera or at the more spacious house of a relative.
In Peru, the parties may vary depending on many factors, but usually the quinceañera goes down a staircase while a song she had chosen is being played. At the bottom, 15 boys await with a rose, or any other flower, each; while 15 girls await with candles. The quinceañera then takes a flower, and blows a candle until she had blown and taken them all. Then, she goes to the dancing area, where she dances a waltz with her father, godfather and/or grandfather. Then she may dance with her boyfriend, the chamberlain (chambelán) a special song she likes or a waltz, if she doesn't have a boyfriend, she may choose somebody special (a brother, cousin or friend), or throw a bouquet, in which case the boy who catches it may dance with her. She can also choose to skip this part. After it, everybody can go and dance. Since they put modern music at this part, it becomes just a normal party with formal outfits.
This section is a stub. You can help by expanding it.
The celebration however is varied in other countries. In Dominican Republic, for example, the Quinceañera only involves the ball party.
In Panama, the celebration is a mixture or influences of the countries mentioned above, and in most cases, they include reggaeton and salsa music (for dancing) after the waltz.
In Brazil, the Festa de Quinze Anos in Portuguese, is also a rite of passage - often celebrated with a Baile de Debutante, although this tradition is favored for the families of girls with the most money.