To the outside world, La Quinceanera may not be as big a celebration as other Dominican Republic holidays and they are right. This does not mean though that this is less celebratory. What makes La Quinceanera a special event is that it happens all year round, more private maybe, but just as important.
Here is why.
In many countries, when a girl reaches 16 years old, the girl has approached womanhood. celebrated, well yes, but not as grand. In Spanish influenced countries, 15 or quince is the Right Time. It is the transition from being a child to a marriageable age. The celebration starts with the most important component, the thanksgiving mass or the misa de accion de gracias. The thanksgiving mass closely approximates a wedding where the girl will march the aisle flanked by Godparents, dressed in full length fancy dress, a matching Headdress and sits on the foot of the altar conducted in her honor. As many as seven maids of honor and chamberlains form part of the Entourage selected among close family and friends. At the end of the mass, commemorative favors are passed to those in attendance and the girl deposits her bouquet at the foot of the Virgin Mary.
After the mass the Partying begins.
The party is as opulent as the resources of the parents allow, although several Padrinos and madrinos are usually invited to sponsor the dress, the band, table favors, the venue, the bar and other multiple expenses incurred in the celebrations. Visitors to one of the Dominican Republic holidays observing or invited to these celebrations will find out often that the Opulence is often so grand compared to most birthday bashes in most countries. Here we are speaking of Birthday Cakes with decorations to match the Celebrant’s dress and which might require removing the door from its Hinges if the cake is to be brought inside the celebration hall.
All throughout the celebration, a raucous cumbia, salsa and banda tunes dominate. These stop only when the Celebrant and her number one escort dance the obligatory waltz. Usually, when the parents are well heeled, a viaje follows the celebrations where the Celebrant travels to European destinations.
Not every girl wants to celebrate her quinceanera in a spectacular fashion, in the manner that not all brides want a spectacular weeding. The tradition, though, is to please the parents and to have a celebration as much as resources allow. No matter, the purpose of the celebration is to remind the girl what the celebration is about and to remind everyone that the girl is now a woman.
If seen from the outside, the quinceanera is a celebration to advertise the daughter to possible grooms of good standing. The origin, however, is suggested to have come from ancient Aztec tribes where the community celebrates the passage from childhood to womanhood. Regardless, this rite of passage is one for those holidays and celebrations that has kept Latino culture and family firmly grounded with the community.