Quinceañera and My Experiences

When my parents celebrated my fifteenth birthday it was a small affair. I had heard stories about huge fiestas, a coming of age party – though it was mystical, back in Mexico. I had yet to attend one when we left and a small piece of me longed for a big celebration with all of my family and friends present. But it didn't work out like that. Now it isn't uncommon to throw a large fiesta de quince años here in the US but back then my parent's choose to keep in small.

Our daughter had a larger one though it would be in accurate to suggest that I lived vicariously through her celebration. We let her organize a size that appealed to her and so it was neither small nor large. You might say it was the perfect size.

Today the quinceañera has many options available to her and many choose to celebrate something that is closer to a sweet sixteen rather than a traditional quince años as many know then back in Mexico.

When I was young we had to make everything for the celebration since you couldn't easily buy them. Though I will be honest some of the decorations were repurposed from my 14th birthday. Today you can find everything you need for the quinceañera and her fiesta. Why do I know? Because, while I was not present at any during my time in Mexico growing up I have been to a number of them since. My first real impression of the types of celebrations that are held was during my exchange year when I was studying at UdeG.

I took the chance to visit my family and my Aunt and Uncle were in the process of preparing their daughter's debut.

Today the quinceañera has her choice of the most varied and individual themes that come with the fitting invitations and decorations that mirror much of the pop culture of her generation. It gives them a chance to be the princess for a day. And it is a day filled with coming of age though the big draw for many (though this is just my suspicion) is the fun she and her friends enjoy.

Culture roots take the celebration back to Mesoamerica, though it is enjoyed throughout most of the Americas today many Mexican-Americans can attest. You can read up on the origin of the celebration and its place in modern society.

Even though we have been invited to numerous parties I am also amazed at the variation that is present. The preparations are immense, both in time and monetary expenditure come quinceañera enjoy celebrations that exceed $25,000, more than most weddings, though this is the exception rather than the rule. While we have never been to one that is even close to that extravagant we have been to many beautiful and warm celebrations that fulfilled their purpose and more. As with all rites of passage those going through them place a lot of importance on having everything thing perfect which as one really comes of age understands is impossible.

I can't help but wonder if modern culture has changed the way these moments are celebrated.

Have they been subverted by the idea that "bigger is better?" As I mentioned in the beginning, when I was young the idea of a large celebration was very attractive to me. When my daughter was preparing for her moment in the spotlight moderate was desired on her part. She didn't want to have an overly large or complicated party. She simply wanted to share the moment with her aunts and uncles, cousins, and friends. The number is written down but I don't need to look – we had invited forty guests – the day will always be ingrained in my memory. It was a beautiful spring day, dry and clear. We had gotten rain over the days preceding her birthday and everything was green and lush. She choose a pink gown, though it was more conservative than most that you find today which . She looked every bit her 15 years and not a day older. We talked about makeup (which is a big part of celebration, it is the first official time the girl is supposed to wear it) but she decided against it. She has such soft radiant skin, even now – years later, she does not need to use makeup (though she does apply some for special occasions).

What I realized then was that the day means change, both for the girl transitioning to womanhood and her family.

Because of that I can understand that some parents want to make it the biggest day in their daughter's young lives. Some indulgences are certainly allowed on our part. 🙂

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