By Raquel V. Reyes

A row of young women, visible only from their shoulders to their ankles, in long colorful gowns.

The word quinceañera (pronounced keen-sen-YARE-ah) often refers both to a traditional Mexican or Latin American rite of passage (a girl's 15th birthday) and to the girl being celebrated. Quinceañera combines the Spanish words quince (KEEN-say), fifteen, and años (AH-nyos), years. The celebration can be called fiesta de quinceañera or simply mis quince (more common in the Cuban, Dominican, and Puerto Rican traditions).

A quinceañera celebration sometimes begins with a Roman Catholic mass (or church service) giving thanks for the girl making the transition to a young woman. The quinceañera wears a lavish formal gown and carries a matching bouquet. In the weeks prior, she has usually had a professional photography session to capture the elegance of the gown and to immortalize this important year. Many families save for years in preparation for a quince, often spending more than what they would on wedding. The main event is a party with food, dancing, and a band. The young lady often makes a grand entrance as all the guests have been waiting for her arrival.

Other typical components of a fiesta de quinceañera are the selection of fourteen male and female attendants and escorts, called damas and chambelanes, to represent the previous 14 years of life; the quinceañera dancing the first dance with her father; and the quinceañera changing out of flat-soled shoes into her first pair of high-heeled shoes. A doll wearing the replica of the girl’s gown is given a symbol of the last doll/toy. The young woman may be expected to give a speech of recognition and appreciation for her parents and family. Gifts of money are usually given directly to the quinceañera as she goes from table to table thanking her guests for attending.

The history of this rite of passage is similar to the Anglo-American coming out party and debutante season, which was public acknowledgement that a young lady was available to be courted. Some families hold true to this custom and do not allow their daughters to officially date until they are fifteen.

Today many young Latinx UUs do not feel comfortable with this binary gendered custom, yet they would still like to honor the rite of passage in some way. Some of the components here on WorshipWeb are an option for modernizing the tradition to be more inclusive to GLBTQ youth.

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  • You do not have to wear the dress. You do not have to have a party. You do not have to dance the waltz con tu papa. You do not have to accept the gift of your last doll. You can break those traditions. You have right of passage into adulthood simply for being you. We are thankful that you...
    Blessing | By Raquel V. Reyes | July 16, 2018 | From WorshipWeb
    Tagged as: 1st Principle (Worth & Dignity), 3rd Principle (Acceptance & Spiritual Growth), Acceptance, Change, Children, Coming-of-Age, Community, Family, Identity, Integrity, International, Quinceañera, Transformation, Youth/Teens
  • Welcome. Bienvenidos. Today we celebrate in community an important rite of passage for a Latina(x) child. We are honored and grateful to share in their dance from childhood into adulthood. ¡Feliz Quinceañera!
    Opening | By Raquel V. Reyes | July 16, 2018 | From WorshipWeb
    Tagged as: Quinceañera, Transformation, Young Adults
  • Luz del sol to warm your days. Luz de luna to illuminate your nights. Luz de estrella to steer you through rough oceans. Luz de vela to celebrate your fifteenth year. Esta luz, this chalice is lit for you this day, That it and this community may be a source of light to guide you into adulthood.
    Chalice Lighting | By Raquel V. Reyes | July 12, 2018 | From WorshipWeb
    Tagged as: Coming-of-Age, International, Quinceañera, Unitarian Universalism, Young Adults
  • In a few moments, there will be a splendid party celebrating (name)’s passage into young womanhood. At that time, she will receive a series of traditional gifts, symbolizing the duties as well as the privileges of her new status....
    Ritual | By Kendyl L. R. Gibbons | March 20, 2018 | From WorshipWeb
    Tagged as: Children, Coming-of-Age, Friendship, Quinceañera, Relationships, Women
  • Presentation of quinceañera by parents: (Minister’s name), I, (parent), and I, (parent), present to the congregation of [congregation's name] and of our family and friends, our daughter, (name), upon the occasion of her 15th birthday. Today we acknowledge her transition from the role of our...
    Ritual | By Kendyl L. R. Gibbons | March 20, 2018 | From WorshipWeb
    Tagged as: Quinceañera
  • I light this chalice as a symbol of my commitment to the values of Unitarian Universalism. May its light be a beacon of hope to me, and to all who seek freedom, truth, and meaning in life.
    Chalice Lighting | By Kendyl L. R. Gibbons | March 20, 2018 | From WorshipWeb
    Tagged as: Bridging Ceremony, Children, Children's Sabbath, Coming of Age, Coming-of-Age, Family, Growth, Quinceañera, Tradition, Unitarian Universalism
  • Welcome to this sacred celebration of emerging adulthood. We are gathered today to rejoice and bear witness as (name) and her parents and friends mark her transition from childhood to the estate of a young woman. The quinceañera tradition has its roots in the ancient cultures of Central and South...
    Opening | By Kendyl L. R. Gibbons | March 20, 2018 | From WorshipWeb
    Tagged as: Bridging, Children, Coming-of-Age, Generations, Growth, International, Quinceañera, Women