How To Have A New Millennium Quinceanera Celebration

Keeping tradition alive in a modern world

To the uninitiated, that is, the non-Spanish, how does one explain what a Quinceanera is? "Oh, it's a big party we hold for a girl's fifteenth birthday, she dresses up in a beautiful gown, there's a limo, a church service, flowers, a tiara, a bible, dancing … you know, a Quinceanera!"

The enquirer still looks puzzled. "You mean a wedding for a kid!" Really, you can't blame them. Unless you've been brought up in the Hispanic community, you may perhaps have never even heard of the term. However, to learn more about it is to uncover a cultural tradition that dates back to Aztec times, when fifteen was commonly the age when girls would leave their family to become wives and mothers themselves.

Today, Quinceanera is a celebration of latina womanhood. It represents a coming of age, an acknowledgment by family that the girl is now a young lady. With Americanisation, however, some girls choose to celebrate their 'sweet sixteenth' instead. Regardless, the social customs, special rituals and party atmosphere live on.

Planning begins up to a year in advance, when bookings are made for the church and for the hall where the actual party will be held.

How is Quinceanera recognized in the New Millennium? Well for starters, Quinceanera girls can create their very own commemorative website to show off every photo of their event and share their news with friends and family, whether or not they were in attendance. Gift registries are popular and the young lady can order whatever her heart desires, usually 'glory box' items such as dinnerware, linen and silverware.

Another modern day take on this tradition-rich festival is Quincenera Barbie! Yes, Mattel introduced a Hispanic Barbie, dressed her in a beautiful gown and floral tiara and she was a huge hit. Some girls even carry the doll with them to their event.

Quinceanera candidates now share news of their upcoming festival in blogs and forums on the Internet. They swap information about the design of the dress they'll wear, discussing songs to choose for their father/daughter dance, color schemes, favors, what to carry in their bouquet and all the nitty gritty details that make the planning so much fun.

Traditionally, a Quinceañera is planned meticulously by friends and family as the occasion is an exciting time to be a part of. Sometimes, however, a Quinceneara planner can be called in to manage the event, removing the pressure from families who are preoccupied with businesses and other aspects of life. The planner will discuss the arrangements with the family and will organize decoration, invitations, music and more if required.

In this age of the Internet, hip hop music, fast food and cell phones, it's easy to lose sight of traditions that have held cultures together for centuries. Although the Quinceanera might be quaint and childlike to a degree, it's reassuring to acknowledge that they continue to be held all across America and the girls turning fifteen are delighted with their opportunity to be honored in this way.

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