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Entry from April 23, 2008
Quinceañera (Quince Años)

Many Spanish-speaking people mark a girl’s fifteenth birthday with a celebration. The name “Quince Años” (fifteen years) was applied to this celebration in the 1950s and 1960s; by the 1960s, the name “Quinceañera” was used. Mexican-American Quinceañeras have long been celebrated in such Texas cities as San Antonio, El Paso, and Brownsville (see citations below).
The Quinceañera can include a mass of thanksgiving, dinners, and a formal “coming out” party. The birthday girl often invites 14 girlfriends and 15 male escorts to the events, as well as other friends and family.
Wikipedia: Quinceañera
The Quinceañera or Quince Años (sometimes represented XV Años, meaning “fifteen years”) is, in some Spanish-speaking regions of the Americas, a young woman’s celebration of her fifteenth birthday, which is commemorated in a unique and different way from her other birthdays.
Besides referring to the actual festivities, the word is also used to refer to the young woman whose 15th birthday is being celebrated (analogous to the word cumpleañera for “birthday girl”). The closest equivalents to the Quinceañera in the English-speaking world are the sweet sixteen, cotillion, or, in more affluent communities, the debutante ball for those who turn eighteen.
There are several different theories as to the origin of this celebration; the most common theory is that the Quinceañera was the result of a blending of mostly religious traditions from both Spanish conquerors and the native people of Mexico. Specifically, this celebration contains elements of the coming of age traditions and Mexican ceremonies, along with elements from Spanish culture. The Quinceañera resembles and probably gets its name from a 16th-century Spanish tradition of presenting one’s 15-year-old daughter to society. Over time, as the natives were converted to Catholicism by Spanish missionaries, they also began to emulate some of the practices of the Spanish.
United States
Because of the large population of Latino people in all areas of the United States, the Quinceañera celebration is becoming common. However, the way that it is celebrated can differ greatly depending on location, family tradition, and religion.
In California, it is often the practice for many family members or Padrinos (godparents) to contribute funds for this special day. The Padrinos may be asked to provide for the quinceañera’s dress, shoes, centerpieces, cost for the hall, alcoholic beverages or other various items that are essential for a Quinceañera.
There are some traditions that seem to be practiced almost everywhere like the changing of the shoes, the first dance, and the quinceañera traditionally being dressed in a ball gown. However, all other aspects of the Quinceañera have become subject to the young girl and her family wishes. Some families celebrate the Quinceañera just as one big party. For other families, though, it is a deeply religious event and the young lady needs to have maintained a certain standard of modesty and behavior to be given the privilege of having a Quinceañera.

Until recently, there has been lacking a formal ritual for Quinceañeras for use within the U.S. Roman Catholic Church; priests and deacons have been left to adapt liturgies to the needs of the celebration. In 2007 the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a formal ritual, approved by the Vatican, to be used in the context of Eucharistic liturgies, with adaptations for Liturgies of the Word.
Handbook of Texas Online
QUINCEAÑERAS. A quinceañera (fifteenth-birthday celebration) is a rite of passage for young, usually Catholic, Hispanic girls in Texas and throughout the Southwest. The ceremony may derive in part from puberty rites celebrated among Indians of the Americas more than 500 years ago to signify entry into adulthood and acceptance of responsibilities. The rites were often sex-based; in them, females were introduced to such traditional roles as childbearing and males were initiated as warriors. Boys have played small roles in quinceañeras, as escorts to the girls who participate as damas (maids of honor). Quinceañeras are partly religious and partly social events. According to Sister Angela Erevia, they should focus on such religious themes as individual spirituality and community service and the universally recognized values of faith, hope, and charity. A quinceañera consists of a special Mass for the celebrant, during which she renews her commitment to Christian values. A party usually follows the church services. In recent years the Catholic Church has sought to influence families to stress the spiritual side of the event and to discourage expensive social festivities beyond the reach of working-class parents. In some parishes, including six predominantly Mexican-American ones in Austin, priests have passed a resolution to deter costly dances and dinners. In one case, individual quinceañeras were banned in favor of group-based bilingual ones for all female members of the parish who requested them upon turning fifteen. The celebrant’s costume has also been an important part of the observance. Long white gowns resembling wedding dresses have been a traditional part of the ceremony, but some celebrants choose pink gowns. In addition, the celebrant usually wears a religious medal that expresses her faith, a ring that symbolizes her spiritual and communal responsibilities, and a crown that foreshadows her triumph in living a Christian life. She also carries flowers, which represent new life. The celebration of quinceañeras has yet to be fully studied. No similar custom has existed for Hispanic boys.
(Dictionary of American Regional English)
quinceañera n [AmSpan quinceañero, -a fifteen-year-old] Span settlement areas
A young woman’s fifteenth birthday celebration; a coming-out party.
[1975 Galvan-Teschner Diccionario 70 TX, Quinceañera or Quinciañera—girl who is just turning fifteen and in whose honor a “coming-out” part [sic for party] is traditionally given.]
1989 DARE File Tucson AZ, [Newspaper advt:] Drachman’s Bridal & Tuxedo—Clearance Sale On select bridal gowns, quinceañera dresses, party and evening dresses.
1993 San Antonio Express-News (TX) 25 July see K 10/6 [Headline:] Quinceañera. [Text:] Patricia Angelica Vega celebrated her 15th birthday Saturday with a Mass at St. Bonaventure Catholic Church. A reception in her honor followed.
1993 WI State Jrl. (Madison) 19 July sec C 1/2, [Headline:] Quinceañera—It’s when Hispanic girls eagerly enter womanhood. Ibid, Continuing a tradition begun by their Aztec ancestors in Mexico generations ago, the two girls celebrated their 15th birthday, or quinceañera, a combination coming-out party and renewal ofo faith, family and community.
1993 DARE File csWI, When my sister had her quinceañera, her picture was in the paper.
1995 Ibid TX, The quinceañera is..an almost weekly occurrence here in San Antonio.
2000 Pacific Sun 8 Mar 36/1 NYC, [Movie review:] In “Home,” Francisco, just arrived from Mexico, meets Maria at a “Sweet 15” party and discovers that they’re both from the same village…[Photo caption:] New arrivals..meet at a quinciñera [sic} party in The City.
(Oxford English Dictionary)
quinceañera, n.
Forms: 19- quinceanera, 19- quinceañera, 19- quinceanero, 19- quinceañero, 19- quincienera. Also with capital initial.  [< Spanish quinceañera, fifteen-year-old girl, celebration of a girl’s fifteenth birthday (with reference to the celebration occas. also quinceañero), use as noun of the feminine of quinceañero fifteen-year-old < quince fifteen + año year (< classical Latin

annus: see ANNALS n.) + -ero, suffix forming adjectives.] 
In Latin America and among Latinos: a celebration of a girl’s fifteenth birthday and her transition from childhood to adulthood, typically involving a mass followed by a reception with refreshments and dancing. Also: a girl celebrating her fifteenth birthday in this way.
[1972 Van Nuys (Calif.) News (Central ed.) 11 June 31A, Her parents..honored la quinceanera..at an all-day fiesta beginning with a mid-morning mass.]
1972 Blade (Toledo, Ohio) Sunday Mag. 30 July 13/2 Father Caballero..encourages the observance of the quincienera as a means of carrying on a beautiful Mexican tradition in the United States.
1988 Texas Monthly Jan. 96/2 The quinceañera and her escort made the fifteenth pairone couple for every year.
1997 Y. M. MURRAY Locas 68, I pretended I was a real princesa..dressed up in white silk like I’m at my quinceañera.
10 November 1949, Brownsville (TX) Herald, “Eva Lucio To Have Birthday Celebration,” pg. 5, col. 3:
Miss Eva Lucio, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Armando Lucio of San Benito, will make her debut next Sunday at a “coming out” ceremony beginning at 9 a.m. in St. Benedict’s Church. The occasion is Miss Lucio’s fifteenth birthday.
Google Books
The Standard Guide to Mexico and the Caribbean
by Lawrence Martin and Sylvia Pass Martin
New York, NY: Funk & Wagnalls
Pg. 106:
Even a humble dressmaker can turn out a “confection,” through experience in creating elaborate “quince años” dresses. (Quince años means 15 years. The Mexican girl, rich or poor, “comes out” on her fifteenth birthday, and even families who can little afford it have an ice-cream…)
22 December 1954, Corpus Christi (TX) Times, “FOR YOUNG GIRL: Fifteenth Birthday Is Gala One in Mexican Tradition” by Anne Dodson, pg. 10B, col. 1:
For in the oldest Mexican tradition, the fifteenth birthday celebration begins with a mass of thanksgiving, includes dinners and fetes and concludes with a formal introduction of the girl to her family’s friends.
Internet Movie Database
Quinceañera (1960)
Director: Alfredo B. Crevenna
Writers: Edmundo Báez (writer), Jorge Durán Chávez (writer)
Release Date: 9 June 1960 (Mexico)
Genre: Drama / Family / Romance
Plot Synopsis: This plot synopsis is empty. Add a synopsis
Plot Keywords: Coming Of Age / Melodrama / Class Differences / Youth
19 September 1960, El Paso (TX) Herald-Post, “El Paso Student Finds Life on Mexican Ranch Combination of Old World and Modern Living” by Jane Pemberton, pg. 19, col. 4:
We went to lots of parties, but this one I remember best was a Quince Anos party for a wealthy family there.
24 November 1964, Galveston (TX) Daily News, “Griselda Elvia Salinas Celebrates ‘Quince Anos’” by Terry McLeod, pg. 3A:
Miss Griselda Elvia Salinas, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. G. Salinas celebrated the feast of “Quince Anos” and attended her first dance.
This is a traditional custom in Mexico observed when a girl reaches her 15th birthday and attends her first dance, her mother explained.
The honoree, according to the tradition of Mexico, invited 14 of her closest girl friends, and 15 escorts for the social.
13 February 1966, Brownsville (TX) Herald, pg. 12, col. 2 photo caption:
When finished the float will represent “Las Mananitas,” the big day of a Mexican girl’s fifteenth birthday.
30 May 1969, El Paso (TX) Herald-Post, pg. A6, col. 2:
A thanksgiving mass is being offered by Mr. and Mrs. Carlos Bachtold of 3208 Dublin street to honor their daughter Catherine Ann on her 15th birthday. The mass with the Franciscan choir will be held in St. Anthony’s Seminary today. A dinner-dance will follow at the Holiday Inn with the traditional “Quinceanera Cake.”
12 April 1970, Des Moines (Iowa) Register, “Joyous Fiesta When a Girl Becomes a Woman” by William Simbro, magazine, pg. 10, col. 1:
Quinceanera marks the fifteenth birthday anniversary and entrance into womanhood for a Mexican girl. It may be observed in a simple private party or be the occasion for a grand celebration, depending on the resources of the family. Martinez decided his daughter deserved the best.
21 June 1971, Yuma (AZ) Daily Sun, pg. 5, col. 1:
A SPECIAL quinceanera for Frances Elizabeth Ramirez was held recently to celebrate the young lady’s 15th birthday.
10 August 1971, El Paso (TX) Herald-Post, pg. A4, col. 6:
Miss Blanco To Observe Quinceanera
24 April 1977, Times Standard (Eureka, CA), pg. 6(?):
“Little Havana” on the Hudson
Union City—Heaviest concentration of Cubans
The Cubans created another social tradition here, one that only the wealthy practiced back home. It’s called a “Fifteen” and is an elaborate party for a 15-year-old girl, much like a debutante party, Publisher Avila, who runs pictures of the affairs in his weekly, says it can cost as much as $10,000.
Internet Movie Database
Plot summary for
Quinceañera (2006)

Magdalena is 14 and anxiously awaiting her 15th birthday where she’ll celebrate her quinceanara. Her world starts to crumble when she discovers her pregnancy after not being able to fit in her gown for her quinceanara. Soon, she’s kicked out of her home, abandoned by her family, and abandoned by her baby’s father. Magdalena is then taken in by her great-granduncle, Tomas and her gay, often-in-trouble cousin, Carlos. There she finds a new family and life. Written by R2k443

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • Wednesday, April 23, 2008 • Permalink

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