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La Quinceañera (coming out party)

My last post was about Miss Mexico, 22-year-old Jimena Navarrete Rosete of Guadalajara, won the Miss Universe title in Las Vegas.  She was modeling since she was 15 years old – just old enough for her Quinceañera!

In Mexico, the tradition of a Quinceañera, or Quinceañero – 15 years old, when the family of a 15 year old girl or boy will give a great coming of age/bar mitzvah type of party. Nowadays, the family will ask their 15 year old whether they would like a Quinceañera or a trip overseas?  Some girls or boys will choose the trip.

Hey—we were lucky enough to be invited to a Quinceañera!

Usually the Quinceañera is for a girl. There is nothing like a Quinceañera, Mexican Style!  No expense is spared! The parents of the girl will spend a good six months ahead to begin preparing for this huge party. Family friends will be notified with beautiful invitation cards. The mother has to organize all the dresses, not just for her daughter, but for herself and outfits for her daughter’s friends.

The Quinceañera dress

The Quinceañera dress

The venue for the Quinceañera has to be reserved a good six months in advance. In the old days the young girls wore white gowns, but now, any sensible color will do!

The Quinceañera dress can be just as expensive and unique as a wedding gown. Flowers and decorations are selected to match the color scheme of the festivities, which include a church service and a reception at which guests will be served dinner and there will be dancing for all in attendance.

We had the honor of being invited to a wonderful Quinceañera recently.

Jim, Matthew, and I were all dressed up in our Sunday best. First we attended a church service. The priest gave his sermon addressing the young girl directly, as her parents sat near to her. Then there was a communion.

After the church service everybody drove off to the venue where the big Quinceañera party was to be held. We were surprised to see that it was a huge ballroom!

All the tables and chairs were adorned in the same color palette of the young lady’s gown. There was a chocolate fountain – a big favorite with everyone.  There were marshmallows, cookies, and whatever to dip into this huge chocolate fountain!

Chocolate fountain!

Of course, Jim and Matthew loved it. They kept going back for more chocolate!  On one side of the ballroom sat the relatives of the father and on the other the relatives of the mother. The group included aunts, uncles, children, babies, distant relatives, and friends.

There was an open bar and we were served a delicious meal of pasta and roast beef followed by fresh fruits.  After dinner it was time for the young lady for whom the Quinceañera was given to enter the ballroom in her beautiful ball gown. Her cousins and friends surround her in dresses of a similar color.

The entertainment began with the traditional father-daughter dance – and the tears flowed.

After dancing with her father he passed the Quinceañera girl to the chambelán de honor (man of honor) – our Quinceañera girl had two chambeláns de honor. This symbolizes the father letting go of his daughter as she is now of age. The Quinceañera girl will also exchange her flat-heeled shoes for high heels to signify that she is becoming a woman.

Symbolism and significance are very important. Gifts are also an important part of a Quinceañera tradition. They denote the young lady’s acceptance by the church, by God and by the congregation (her family and friends) as a woman. She wears a tiara as a sign of leaving childhood behind and facing the challenges that lay ahead and she is also presented with either a bracelet or ring (or both) representing the unending circle of life.

Earrings are a reminder to listen and pay heed to the word of God and the world around her, a cross or medallion signifies faith and a rosary or prayer book are religious resources to always remind the young lady to remember her devotion to God.

At a certain point, our Quinceañera girl and her friends put on dance costumes and gave us a great performance – they all looked liked professional dancers! We could have been in Las Vegas! Obviously they had done a lot of rehearsing.

Next, the rest of the relatives and friends got onto the dance floor and danced to a Tex-Mex bit!  Everyone was doing the two-step – in sync! It was just fantastic. And everyone KNEW how to dance to the beat of the music.

The ballroom and the cake!

There was a huge cake in the same color theme as the young lady’s dress; it looked just like a wedding cake!

We found Matthew still at the chocolate fountain, where he had gobbled up his fill of delicious melting chocolate. Finally, Jim dragged him away. “Sit down, and stop eatin’ up the chocolate fountain, Matthew!” whispered Jim.

“I can’t help it. We should get one of those fountains for our home huh? We’ll have chocolate everyday!” smiled Matthew, with chocolate on the side of his mouth.

“Here’s a napkin; wipe off on that chocolate smudge, now why don’t you dance?” I asked.

“Dance? Oh no, no, no…I haven’t rehearsed my tango, you know, but I should, just like the people on Dancing with the Stars?” said Matthew. “What tango? Their doin’ the two-step.” whispered Jim.

“I will wait for the tango, Jim—I am not ready for my close-up…yet, Jim,” said Matthew with his head held high up.

“MaryAnn, give Matthew a slap behind his head now…quietly, we don’t want to cause a scene!” whispered an angry Jim.

“Matthew, you will perform your tango, when you are ready for your close-up, not to worry. Now we must all watch and behave,” I said. “Well, thank you MaryAnn. You certainly do understand me,” said Matthew.

As Matthew finished speaking, he brought out his famous white gloves.

“Where’ your top hat Matthew?” asked a red-faced Jim.

“I left it at home,” snapped Matthew.

“Stop it you two!” I hissed – and all calm settled in.

The party was going full swing, people were singing and dancing and hugging each other.  And there we stood – three boring people.

As the Quinceañera came to a close, we finally said our good-byes to everyone, the party shifted into second gear. As we left, everyone was dancing around the beautiful young lady. She glowed so beautifully in her beautiful gown and tiara, with lovely face. I swear she looked just like the movie stars that were walking down the red carpet! Her parents were so proud of this moment.

Once we got home, Matthew said “I had the best time ever! For the next Quinceañera, I will be prepared. I have my dancing tuxedo in my trunk, top hat and all. Bit tight, but I will be ready,” smiled Matthew.

Jim and I had the most wonderful time at the Quinceañera, and we were very honored to have been invited! It is a privilege that few Americans get to see.

The next day, I chatted with Carmen on the phone, (mother of the lovely Quinceañera girl). She said, “We were so happy that you all came for the Quinceañera. We danced till the sun came up. It was a success and so perfect, I cried, my mother cried, and everyone was happy.”

Now, that’s what I call, a rip-roaring successful Quinceañera!  Everyone here in Mexicali and Mexico really knows how to work hard and play hard.  Their family traditions always revolve around “la familia.”  That is the Mexican way!

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