A Quinceanera is a celebration of a milestone. When a young lady becomes 15 years of age (quince) in many Latin communities, she is celebrated with this coming of age party. The event has religious undertones and can include a mass service or a blessing. Reportedly, this tradition dates back more than 600 years to when Aztec and Mayan cultures celebrated the marriage and family eligibility of a young girl. The tradition was eventually influenced by Spaniards and developed a Catholic relationship. The priest or minister guides the girl about her responsibilities as a woman of faith and how she can grow from that. (Look up the symbolism of the bible, rosary, ring, last doll, earrings, shoes, etc.) The tiara that is worn by the guest of honor symbolizes that the daughter is still a princess in her parents’ eyes. With her mom’s permission, I am sharing this celebration for educational purposes and to celebrate the diversity that is alive in Tulsa and at my sons’ private school.
I compared it to Southern cotillions, debutantes, the American Sweet Sixteen party and other cultures celebrating the age they consider the child reaching “maturity” or presenting the young person to society. In the Jewish culture, the Bar or Bat Mitzvah is celebrated for 13 year olds. I jokingly told my friends at the event that the Greeks don’t have such an event because they never want to let their children grow up. But of course, I was being facetious. Kind of.
Being friends with the guest of honor and her parents was the icing on the quinceanera cake for us! Not only were we lucky enough to be invited–but our son was asked to be a participant in the event! He was one of the salsa and waltz dancers for the honoree’s special event. After several Saturday morning rehearsals in a row, the friends ordered costumes, took professional photos together and practiced other important details to prepare for the big day. My son was honored to be asked to do a bible reading, too.
The Quinceanera was held at a venue in our downtown and was beautifully decorated. It was heartwarming to watch the guests and friends of the family arrive to celebrate the honoree’s big day.After the blessing, speeches and dinner, the dancers presented us with the meaningful waltz in which the couples alternated and rotated so that each young man could dance with the honoree. He held her, twirled her and with no words–only emotions and gazes– each boy got his turn to celebrate her through dance.
Next was the salsa dance! The girls sat down in chairs while the boys lined up opposite them. The music started and the boys humorously and in their suave way, approached the girls. As they danced their way to the girls, the boys teasingly backed off and danced back to their side of the
dance floor. Eventually, they met in the middle and started their couples dance of salsa. The honoree and her partner had color coordinated outfits that stood apart from the other dance couples who were in gray and silver. Everyone looked glamorous! All of us parents were proud to watch our children’s skills at these intricate dances. They seemed so grown up, and yet, we could remember when some of them were in Preschool, Kindergarten or Elementary school together. My son and his best friend have been friends from the womb since my friend and I went through pregnancy together.My husband found it bittersweet that our youngest son is already old enough to do these grown up dances. It was like a glimpse into future wedding celebrations. It definitely made me feel emotional thinking that time is slipping away from us. I can’t imagine how the guest of honor’s parents must have felt that night to watch their beautiful daughter reach this age of maturity. The friends’ excitement for her was so touching. The appreciation in the room was so evident and the diversity was impressive. I was excited to realize how these children found such kindred spirits in each other and from such diverse backgrounds. In this dance group alone there were children from the following backgrounds: Swedish/Finnish, Cypriot, Greek, Peruvian, and Mexican . The friends that attended were from the following backgrounds: New Zealand, (Eastern) Indian, American, etc.
The kids weren’t the only ones dancing the night away. The adults danced, too! My husband and I enjoyed watching the Latin people dance. They have a swagger that is so innate and joyful. The youngsters lit up when their modern tunes came on–the deejay knew all the right hits.As grown up as they might be becoming, I noticed my son lingering by the candy table and sneaking some candy before going on the dance floor for his big moves. Priorities. Boys will be boys. Never too old for candy!
The parents’ speeches to their daughter, as well as the priest’s blessing, were absolutely heartfelt and life affirming. The carefully chosen words of love, guidance and resilience imparted to this child of God were sincerely crafted from unconditional love. The honoree was graceful, poised and reverent on her special day. She seemed groomed for this event.
I have known her since she was a little girl–beautiful and elegant with bright eyes and a genuine love of friendship. She is a good reflection of her Peruvian and American heritage. I feel so fortunate to be included in this milestone and to be part of the Latin culture at this event. © Gina Michalopulos Kingsley
photos by Gina Michalopulos Kingsley