The Meaning of a QUINCEANERA

The Quinceañera tradition dates back more than 600 years to when the Aztec and Mayan cultures celebrated when a young girl became eligible to marry, have children, and take on the responsibilities of a woman in the community. Eventually, the tradition was influenced by the Spaniards, and a Catholic connection emerged. More recently, non-Catholic churches have also begun to offer religious ceremonies for Quinceañeras. While the religious ceremony is a vital part of the Quinceañera for many Latino families, today some choose to have a reception only.

For those that celebrate in the church first, the ceremony comprises a very important part of the event. The church ceremony, and all of the preparation leading up to it, can provide a wonderful opportunity for the Quinceañera’s priest or minister to discuss with her the growing responsibilities she takes on as a woman of faith. The ceremony serves to remind her of her devotion to God, and it includes a rededication of her baptismal vows.

Many of the traditional gifts presented to the quinceañera by her parents and her padrinos (Godparents) at her church ceremony are symbols of faith. The tiara placed on her head signifies her standing as a princess in the eyes of God. The quinceañera earrings remind her to listen to God’s word. The bracelet represents the unbroken nature of God’s love: it is unceasing. The scepter represents her acceptance of the responsibilities of being a woman. She also receives a patron saint medal, rosary, or quinceañera Bible to remind her of her foundation in faith. These items represent her tools for navigating through life as a woman of faith.

BIBLE
The Bible is an important gift for every quinceañera. It is the basis of the quinceañera’s faith and is a place for her to run to for advice and companionship throughout her adult life.

ROSARY
The Rosary is an important aspect of the Catholic faith, and is often presented on this occasion to assist the quinceañera with her prayers. In addition to or in place of the rosary, the quinceañera may receive a patron saint medal to wear as a reminder of the importance of her faith and religious tradition in her life.

RING
The Ring serves much the same purpose as the bracelet, it symbolizes God’s unending love. The quinceañera may receive one or both of these items. Often the ring and bracelet will be part of a matching set.

TIARA
The Tiara (or corona) symbolizes that the quinceañera is a princess in the eyes of God. The tiara usually replaces a simple headpiece that the quinceañera wears into the ceremony. She may receive her corona at the church ceremony, or during the reception. Your priest or minister can help you determine which events should occur in the church ceremony, and which are reserved for the reception.

LAST DOLL
The last doll is another traditional symbol that embodies a great deal of meaning. The last doll, or ultima muñeca, represents the leaving behind of her childhood and the toys of a young girl, in exchange for more grown-up responsibilities and interests. The last doll can be given by the padrinos or the parents.

BRACELET
The Bracelet is also a symbol of God’s unending love. The parents or the padrinos may present a bracelet to the quinceañera. While the bracelet may be of any style. Many popular choices include something with a charm, a Christian Symbol, a simple bangle, or a special quinceañera bracelet with a “15” charm or symbol.

EARINGS
The earrings serve to remind the young woman to keep her ears tuned to the word of God. They may be presented by the padrinos or the parents. If presented at the church ceremony, the priest or minister will bless them along with the other gifts. The earrings can be in any style and are usually something very special for the young woman.

SHOES
The quinceañera begins her ceremony in flat heels, symbolic of her childhood. Usually during the reception, her father will kneel at her feet as she sits in a special chair. He will remove the low heeled shoes of her childhood and replace them with her first high heeled shoes. It is typically from this point forward that she is allowed to wear high heeled shoes.