15 in Spanish: The Quinceañera Birthday Bash in Latin America
Turning 15 in Spanish speaking countries is an important event because it represents a significant moment in the lives of young Latin Americans, especially women. It symbolizes the transition from being a girl to becoming a woman, and it involves celebrating with family, close friends, and acquaintances!
Today, we’ll dive deeper into the quinceañera tradition in Latin America, its historical importance, and what the ceremony involves.
The “Big 15” in Spanish Culture
The big 15 in Spanish culture—mostly in Latin America—is a huge deal; it’s like you’re leaving behind the girl in you and starting the journey of becoming a woman. This celebration is equivalent to the “Sweet 16” in the United States; parties, dresses, cakes, and presents are also part of this ritual.
The history and tradition of turning 15 in Spanish speaking countries all started with the Aztecs and Mayans, who performed puberty rites to indicate the beginning of adult life and the responsibilities that came with it. In these cultures, when women turned 15, they left their homes and went to their neighborhood center, called Telpochcalli School. Here they learned the history and traditions of their culture, household skills, religious rituals, singing or dancing, and craftwork—and prepared for marriage. All Aztecs had access to these centers, so pretty much every girl went to one. Then, they returned to their homes and threw a quinceañera party proclaiming that they were ready to become women.
Over the years, this tradition has changed in several ways. For example, it incorporated celebration of Catholic Mass (or another religious service). In addition, the use of long dresses became popular, and dancing the waltz became a must during the party. Plus, the quinceañera got to choose the equivalent to bridesmaids and groomsmen in a wedding, called damitas y chambelanes (or caballeros).
Quinceañera Traditions Today
Modern quinceañeras typically include a religious service and a party afterwards. During the religious ceremony, the quinceañera thanks God for turning 15 and for all the blessings she has received. Usually, only family and close friends are invited to this ceremony.
On the other hand, the big 15 birthday parties in Spanish cultures can vary widely, depending on what the quinceañera wants. They can take place at a hotel, a personal home with a big garden, or a country club, among other places. An abundance of food, drinks (alcohol only for adults), music, and elaborate decorations are arranged to entertain the guests. The quinceañera chooses who to invite. She might choose only family and close friends, but most of the time a lot of people are invited to these parties. Of course, party crashers love them.
There are plenty of traditions that can happen during the 15 birthday party in these countries, but again, each quinceañera decides what she wants to do. For the purpose of this post, let’s say she wants to do everything; here’s what would happen.
The birthday girl would enter the place with flat shoes, accompanied by her dad or another family member, along with her damitas and chambelanes. Then, in front of everyone, her dad would change her shoes to high heels, symbolizing her transition to adulthood. Her mom would then put a crystal crown on her head (or the quinceañera can choose to enter the party already wearing the crown). Later, she would dance the waltz with her dad and perform a choreographed dance that she’s rehearsed with her damitas and chambelanes. Finally, she and her family would thank everyone for being there to celebrate her life, and the party would start.
The typical 15 party accessories in Spanish cultures include balloons, centerpieces, wall decorations, and fun accessories for guests (like party hats, sunglasses, glowsticks, etc.). The quinceañera wears a formal dress, usually with vivid colors like pink, yellow, light blue, orange, or purple. And, of course, high heels and a crown.
I don’t know about you, but I feel most of these things are pretty corny and funny, and I’m sure a lot of quinceañeras feel this way, too. Remember these are the traditions when turning 15 in Spanish speaking countries around the world, but in the end each girl decides what fits with her style and what she feels comfortable with.
Boys Who Turn 15 in Spanish-Speaking Countries
We’ve been talking about girly stuff, but what about the guys? The truth is that guys don’t have big parties or celebrations for their 15th birthday. Normally, they host a lunch or a dinner for family and close friends, sing happy birthday, and either the birthday boy or his relatives will offer some special words and thank everyone for being there. However, some guys just prefer to go out and party with their friends for the night.
In general, girls’ parties are bigger, include more traditions, and require more effort and organization. On the other hand, boys’ parties tend to be more casual, smaller, and include family and close friends.
Perfect Quinceañera Gift Ideas
As we’ve seen, these 15 birthday parties in Spanish cultures are a major event, so you’ll need to find the perfect gift. Here’s a list of some brilliant regalitos you can give to a quinceañera on her special day.
|unos tacones||high heels||tah-koh-nehs|
|una cámara instantánea||instant camera (Polaroid)||kah-mah-rah eens-than-tah-neh-ah|
You can write any of the following phrases on a birthday card to congratulate the quinceañera.
- ¡Feliz cumpleaños, quinceañera! – Happy birthday, quinceañera!
- Hoy festejamos tus quince primaveras. – Today we celebrate your fifteen candles.
- ¡Felices 15 años! – Happy 15th!
- ¡Felicidades, princesa! – Congratulations princess!
- ¡Felicidades por tus 15 años! – Congratulations on your 15th birthday!
- Te deseo muchos logros personales en tu vida. – Hope you achieve all your personal goals.
- Te deseo todo lo mejor en esta nueva etapa de tu vida. – Wishing you the best in this new stage of your life.
What to Wear to a Quinceañera Party
Now, we can’t leave behind the dress code for these parties. Remember they’re massive celebrations in Latin America, so of course people need to dress up nicely.
Women usually wear short and elegant dresses, high heels, and jewelry. Also, they wear makeup and either straighten or curl their hair. On the other hand, guys wear formal pants, button-down shirts, blazers, formal shoes, and sometimes ties. People choose what colors to wear; they can be neutral or vivid. However, depending on where the party is and the weather, girls may decide to wear higher or shorter heels, lighter dresses, or jackets; and guys might opt to wear ties or lighter blazers.
Time to Party in Real Life!
You’ve got all you need to know about the big 15 in Spanish cultures and how to celebrate a quinceañera’s party! Now, it’s time to talk about it with a native Spanish speaker. Homeschool Spanish Academy offers fun Spanish classes for everyone, and our Spanish-speaking teachers from Guatemala will be happy to start a conversation with you and practice what you learned today. Sign up for a free trial to see how fast you can learn about Latin American culture and become conversational in Spanish! ¡Nos vemos!
Want to learn more about Latin American culture? Read these posts!
- How to Give Congratulations in Spanish - January 20, 2021
- How to Talk About Learning a Language in Spanish - January 10, 2021
- “How Much Is It?” in Spanish: A Guide to Travel and Shopping - January 3, 2021