by Donna Sue Berry
It’s not a Sacrament, though it always includes a Mass. The Mexican Quinceañera (variously called fiesta de quince años, fiesta de quinceañera, quince años, quinceañera or simply quince in Latin American countries and ex-patriate communities) is a ‘coming of age’ ceremony.
The origins of Quinceañera are variously credited to the Aztec or Mayan Indians, though as these were pre-literate cultures there is no historical documentation to support this. People today believe that women went through ceremonial rites of passage that included parental speeches beseeching their adolescent daughters to become wise and worthy women, well prepared to move into their future.
After the Spanish colonized Mexico, Quinceanera became a Mexican Catholic tradition in which a young lady who has turned 15 consecrates her life to the Blessed Virgin Mary, during the Holy Sacrifice of a Mass celebrated for her. This Mass is said with the intention of obtaining the graces necessary for her voyage along the right path to either a religious life or matrimony.
Traditionally, a young lady earned this 15th year celebration by her example, her growth in good and holy works, her purity — and by showing her parents that she was capable of running a household by herself. Today, Quinceañera is a significant cultural ritual for Mexican Catholics, intended to solidify a girl’s commitment to her faith. During the Quinceañera Mass, the young girl receives Holy Communion, makes an act of consecration to the Virgin Mary, presents the Virgin Mary with a bouquet of flowers, and receives gifts that are blessed by the priest.
On the occasion of Trinity’s Quinceañera, her parents Angel and Jessica Rivera granted an interview to Regina Magazine’s Donna Sue Berry.
REGINA: Who may participate in the Quinceañera?
Angel and Jessica Rivera: The young lady turning 15. Modernism has brought in many other traditions that make it look more like a wedding, but it is not. We kept it traditional and only had our daughter participate.
REGINA: Is a Quinceañera like a socialite making her debut?
Angel and Jessica Rivera: No and yes. It becomes a social debut in a way. Relatives, friends, and the community gather together to celebrate her walk with Christ and her purity. That is why her dress is supposed to be white.
REGINA: Is it not a Beauty Pageant?
Angel and Jessica Rivera: No.
REGINA: Where does it take place?
Angel and Jessica Rivera: Traditionally, at a Catholic church for the Mass and for her consecration; in the home or at a hall for the party afterwards, which is more of a thanksgiving celebration — a thanksgiving that she chose and chooses to continue a holy life in God and the Sacraments.
REGINA: Why is there a Mass to celebrate her Quinceañera?
Angel and Jessica Rivera: The most important part of a Quinceañera is the Most Sacred Holy Mass because this is where she presents her good fruits; that is, herself to God. Receiving Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist, a blessing from the priest, and consecrating herself to Our Lady helps her continue her path in purity and holiness.
REGINA: What is the significance of the age “15”?
Angel and Jessica Rivera: This age is celebrated because Our Lady, the Mother of God, who stayed pure and holy all her life, at 15 years old was chosen by God to be the Mother of the second Divine Person of the Blessed Trinity. (Editor’s Note: This is a tradition in some parts of the world, though not an official teaching of the Church.)
What is the Blessed Virgin Mary’s role in this tradition?
Angel and Jessica Rivera: The young lady having a Quinceañera has sought Our Lady for guidance as a child and will continue to do so throughout her life.
REGINA: What is the significance of the doll at the celebration party and dance?
Angel and Jessica Rivera: The young lady receives her last doll showing she is no longer a child, but is now a young woman, and also receives and wears her first heels for the same reasons.
REGINA: Tell us about the dance that Trinity and her dad had?
Angel and Jessica Rivera: All things celebrated during the party may vary. Usually, the father dances a special dance with his daughter showing his love and support as well as their growing bond as father and daughter. A very special moment for a Hispanic family. The bond between the father and daughter needs to be a very strong one so that she doesn’t stray in the wrong direction. After all, he should represent the relationship we should have with God.
Jessica and Angel Rivera and their six sons celebrate their daughter Trinity’s Quinceañera.
Fifteen Questions on the Quinceanera from the UCCB
ORDER FOR THE BLESSING ON THE FIFTEENTH BIRTHDAY