What’s the Hype with the Mexican Quinceanera?

Welcome everyone. I’m Paulísima from Spring Spanish. That Mexican Quinceañera actually happened to me!

The story of my 15th birthday is not the classic one, but it was still a very fun experience. In this lesson we will explore everything about this traditional celebration. Its origins, where and when it is celebrated, and the most important traditions within the Mexican Quinceanera celebration.

What’s the Hype with the Mexican QUINCEAÑERA?

Actor 1
¿Qué crees?
(Guess what?)

Actor 2

Actor 1
Tú tía Adela me acaba de llamar. Me dijo que te organizó una fiesta de quince años.
(Your aunt Adela just called me. She told me to she organized a “quinceañera” party for you.)

Actor 2

Actor 1
Sí, hija. Te va a festejar tus quince este sábado que viene. Junto con los de tu prima Perlita. Con misa y todo.
(Yes, daughter. She’s going to celebrate your 15th birthday this coming Saturday. Along with your cousin Perlita’s. With a mass and everything.)

Actor 2
¡Este sábado! ¡Mamá, pero si nosotros no somos católicos!
(This Saturday! Mom, but we’re not even Catholic!)

And maybe I’ll be encouraged to show you the photos of my 15th birthday. Are you ready?

Let’s get started.

1. Fun fact: What is the Mexican quinceañera?

The word “quinceañera” actually refers to the person who is turning 15. To the lady, the girl who is turning 15, not the celebration.

In the United States, this word “quinceañera” has been used and is used even today to refer to the party. But in Mexico it is not so, quinceañera is the girl. When we refer to the party, to the celebration, we say “party of fifteen years”.

Or more commonly and more simply: 15 years, 15 or 15’s.

Actor 1
¿Me acompañas a unos quinces?
(Will you come with me to a 15s?)

Actor 2
¿De quién son?
(Whose are they?)

Actor 1
De la hermanita de mi novio.
(My boyfriend’s little sister.)

Actor 2
Ok, vamos. Ya tiene mucho tiempo que no voy a unos quince.
(Ok, let’s go. It’s been a long time since I went to a 15.)

2. The story of the 15th birthday party

The 15th birthday party for girls is celebrated in a big way in Mexico, several Latin American countries, and some parts of the United States.

Normally where many people of Latino origin live. It is a very important celebration that dates back to pre-Columbian times. Mayan and Aztec societies considered that at the age of 15, girls were ready to face the responsibilities of adulthood.

Today, it has lost that particular meaning. Because as we all know, a person, a 15-year-old girl is not a full-fledged woman, she is still a minor.

When the Spaniards arrived, they did not completely prohibit people from continuing to perform their rituals and traditions. What they did was to incorporate a Catholic element into those rituals. That is why today one of the most important parts of the 15th celebration is the celebration of a mass of thanksgiving in a Catholic church.

3. Mi misa (My mass)

Although I am not baptized as a Catholic, my aunt reserved a mass for me and my cousin. The truth is that I don’t know how she managed it. Supposedly, if you’re not baptized, you cannot have a fifteen years old mass. She still made it possible.

Mexican quinceanera fun facts

What I do remember is that the father, the priest, was not Mexican. So maybe that had something to do with it? I don’t know.

I am not perfectly familiar with the rituals that have to be followed during a mass, so my aunts prepared me the best they could. And according to me I understood everything. But there was a moment in the mass when I was supposed to say “my fault, my fault, my big fault”, but I said “my fault, my fault, my damn fault”.

4. Celebration elements

15th birthday parties are traditionally held on the weekend closest to the quinceañera’s birthday.

One of the most important elements of the 15th birthday, and one of the most eye-catching, is the dress. Traditionally, quinceañeras wear a huge dress, very beautiful and it looks like they are princesses.

The element of wearing a princess-like dress from the time Mexico was influenced by the French. Emperor Maximilian and his wife Charlotte brought with them European customs. And since there are also events where girls are presented to society, we also take from them certain elements. And as a result, now also one of the most important elements of the fifteen years is dancing a waltz.

Actor 1
¿Ya sabes qué vals va a bailar la quinceañera?
(Do you already know what waltz the quinceañera is going to dance?)

Actor 2
No sé, pero me parece que va a ser algo muy típico.
(I don’t know, but it seems it’s going to be something typical.)

Actor 1
Tal vez “Tiempo de Vals” de Chayanne o “El Danubio Azul”.
(Maybe “Time To Waltz” by Chayanne or “The Blue Danube”.)

Actor 2
Ojalá sea la de Chayanne. ¡Lo clásico nunca falla!
(I hope it is the one from Chayanne. Classic never fails!)

Generally, quinceañeras prepare several months in advance 2 choreographed dances. One for a waltz, and one for a modern song. The quinceañera dances the waltz choreography first, and then dances with her father, brothers, uncles, and all the people who are important to her.

Then she changes her outfit, takes off that big dress, puts on a lighter one to dance to a modern song. But don’t think she dances alone, huh? Not at all. The quinceañera has her team of dancers who are usually boys. Whether they’re her schoolmates or friends or family. Those boys, those who dance with the quinceañera, are called “chambelanes”. A word we also copied from the French.

5. The vibe of the 15th birthday party

This type of party really is a big event. They are often held in event halls, such as where weddings are held, and it is the type of event where long tablecloths are used. I imagine that the sweet sixteen of the US is something similar to the 15s, or also the bar Mitzvah. I’ve never been to a sweet sixteen or a bar Mitzvah, but I’ve seen it in the movies and it’s something similar. The vibe of the event and the organization of the event is similar to the 15s.

My 15s were not planned in advance and I had nothing to do with the organization. I didn’t decide anything. That’s not very common. 15s parties are a serious event that require a lot of advance planning. Just like a wedding. Imagine that.

6. Other traditions related to Mexican quinceañera

There are other traditions that are also celebrated at parties of 15 years. For example, giving the quinceañera one last toy. Someone she chooses, on the day of the celebration of the 15s, gives her one last toy. It’s usually a doll. And this last toy symbolizes that it is the last object that the girl, the quinceañera, will have from her childhood.

It is also customary for the quinceañera, at the end of the Mass, to give a bouquet of flowers to the Virgin of Guadalupe. Another thing that is customary is to give the quinceañera a pair of heels to wear at the party. The quinceañera wears flat shoes and someone, usually the dad, swaps her flat shoes for high heels. I know this tradition exists, but I’ve never seen it myself. I don’t think it’s that common. Or, well, it’s not so common at parties I’ve been to.

Another thing that is very traditional is that the people who were godparents at the girl’s baptism are also godparents for the 15s. The godparents usually give the quinceañera a gold chain with a medallion of the Virgin of Guadalupe or any other charm that the quinceañera prefers.

7. How is the party organized?

Even if the quinceañera’s family does not have a lot of money, people in Mexico manage to organize these large parties. This is accomplished by asking for help of various family members or friends. Some contribute to pay for the reception hall, the dress, the mass, the flowers. Others contribute to pay for the band or the party favors. Yes, that is another tradition, the party favors.

Actor 1
La hermanita de mi novio me pidió que sea madrina de último juguete.
(My boyfriend’s little sister asked me to be her godmother of last toy.)

Actor 2
¡Ay, qué lindo! ¿Y qué le vas a regalar?
(Oh, that’s sweet! And what are you going to give her?)

Actor 1
Yo creo que una Barbie. ¡Le encantan!
(I think a Barbie. She loves them!)

Actor 2
Sí, es una muy buena idea.
(Yes, it’s a very good idea.)

Actually a 15s is like a wedding but a little smaller, with video, music, lights, flowers, decorations, party favors, everything. They are very similar.

Do you want to see more pictures of my quince? Let’s see them. I really had a great time at my 15s. That occasion was the first time my friends spent the weekend with me and my family in Tulum. Oh, because I forgot to tell you that my 15 was in Tulum.

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