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What is Quinceañera? (Sweet 15)

Being in Mexico, you must know what Quinceañera means. The first time I noticed Quinceañera was on a random street of Monterrey, Mexico. Instead of the regular bachelorette parties that I see, I saw a much younger crowd and with mix gender. That's when I raise the question "What is that? And what are they doing?"

The simplest answer to this question is that Quinceañera is Sweet 15. However, there is a lot more to that. It's not like a Sweet 16 party in the U.S. where teenage girls invite friends and DJ, and host a party. Quinceañera has more formal traditions than a regular Sweet 16 party. I had the pleasure to understand Quinceañera at a deeper level from one of my friends in Mexico, where her Quinceañera party at age 15 was truly amazing.

The purpose of Quinceañera is to mark the year when a girl transitions from a child to a young woman. Back in the day, Quinceañera is used as a time-check to signify that a girl can either get married (very young) or to become a nun. Obviously, these reasons are no longer applicable in our modern world, but the tradition and celebration of Quinceañera are still well-kept.

For Catholics, there is a religious ceremony at the church before the reception party described below. The girl will wear a big formal dress as part of the religious ceremony.

After the ceremony, Quinceañera parties usually take place in a big hall venue, which can accommodate a large crowd of people. At the Quinceañera party, the main birthday girl (Quinceañera) changes her dress to a dance dress. A Quinceañera party usually has the following steps (not in strict order):

1. The Quinceañera dances with the father. The music is usually waltz.

2. The father passes her daughter to dance with the chosen escort, "chambelán de honor".

3. After, there is a ballet dance between the Quinceañera and 15 pairs of guys and girls. It makes sense for the magic number to be 15. Usually, the dance in this part is choreographed.

4. Then, the father presents the Quinceañera one last gift - the last doll. This signifies that the era of dolls has come to an end.

5. The last part, all other guests are invited to the dance floor and party. The music being played is usually the Quinceañera's favourite songs (can be hip-hop, top 40, jazz, rap, pop etc.).

There are many variations of how a Quinceañera party actually plays out.

Sometimes on step 3, the Quinceañera only dances with the 15 guys (chambelanes). Sometimes, instead of 15 pairs of guys/girls, there are only 7. Also, the girl sometimes doesn't even change her dress between the religious ceremony and the party reception.

Quinceañera parties can be quite wild and crazy. As mentioned at the beginning, I've seen multiple limo cars driving on the street, kids yelling from the car, preparing the pre-Quinceañera parties. Though, after listening to my friend's Quinceañera story, I do believe it is an amazing party, and one that cannot be forgotten.

If you want a good laugh, here are 37 outrageous things that you will see at every Quinceañera parties (from buzzfeed):

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Who is Henry Shew?

Henry is an avid traveler and a tax consultant by profession.


Walk In My Shew is started to document the travel stories and culture experienced in different countries.


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