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Quinceanera Dresses

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Quinceanera Dresses
What is Quinceanera?

In Hispanic culture, when a girl turns 15, a celebration is held called the quinceanera, symbolizing the girl's passage to womanhood. While a quinceanera has religious and historical origins, in modern American society, it has evolved into a large social affair for presenting a young woman to society for the first time. The quinceanera is an important event similar to a sweet sixteen party, meant to honor the girl and surround her with family and friends.

Religious Significance
The quinceanera holds religious and cultural significance to people in Central America and South America, and Hispanic Catholics in the United States. The main event of a quinceanera is a religious Mass, with readings from the Bible and the Eucharist, as in other Masses. During the prayers in this Mass, the young woman makes a commitment to follow the teachings and lessons of God and the Blessed Virgin throughout her entire life. The honoree is accompanied by 14 young women (making the total number 15) as well as her own escort. Dress styles have evolved over time, but the honoree will wear something that distinguishes her from the rest, whether a traditional wedding-type dress or a ball gown. She also wears a headpiece. During the Mass, her grandparents give the girl a crown and remove the headpiece. The crown symbolizes a princess, and during the Mass she is given a cross that signifies she is ready to become an adult.

History
Although the history is unclear, some historians believe that Spanish conquistadors introduced the quinceanera to the Meso-American tribes. However, there was also an Aztec coming-of-age ceremony, which would have occurred before the conquistadors arrived. The Spanish explorers most likely would have altered the celebration to fit their Christian beliefs. Since then, the practice has been passed through generations and cultures.

The Reception
Many young women choose to have a reception with all of their family and friends. When the young woman enters the reception she wears flat shoes, which will be replaced with high heels by her father, another symbol of her entrance to womanhood. During the reception there is a banquet and a dance. In Mexico, girls are not supposed to dance in public if they are younger than 15, so this signifies the first time they are permitted to do so. The young woman dances with her godfathers and other father figures to a special song, which is traditionally a waltz. She receives a variety of gifts, including earrings that remind her to listen to God and a bracelet symbolic of the circle of life.

The Doll
The young woman receives her last childhood toy, usually a porcelain doll. This doll is often wearing a dress identical to the girl's dress. The doll holds ribbons with the girl's name and the date of the quinceanera written on them, which are given as party souvenirs. Occasionally, the doll is given as a gift to a younger girl in the family, but often the doll is kept as a memento from the party.

Similar Celebrations
A quinceanera is similar to the American sweet sixteen celebration, in which a girl has a large birthday party with family and friends. Often these parties are very elaborate and include extravagant dresses and invitations, a candle-lighting ceremony and dancing. Some sweet sixteens can rival weddings in terms of cost and planning. In Judaism, a girl becomes a bat mitzvah at 13 (a boy becomes a bar mitzvah). Like the quinceanera, and unlike a sweet sixteen party, becoming a bat mitzvah or bar mitzvah involves a religious ceremony as well as a reception. The term "bar mitzvah" means "one to whom the commandments apply."