Celebrate a Quinceanera While You Learn Spanish

If you are lucky enough to live in an area where there are many native Spanish speakers, you will have heard about a Quinceanera. But, if you have never attended one, you may be curious about it. You may even be invited to one if you have Latin American friends. This celebration is filled with customs that are very special to Latin American families. You can learn about this unique tradition and learn Spanish at the same time.

The Quinceanera celebrates a young girl’s 15th birthday. In Latin American culture, this age is the age where a girl leaves childhood to enter maturity. It is believed that the ceremony owes its origins to the Aztecs and some of its unique vocabulary to French culture of the late 1800s. The celebration has religious significance for Spanish-speaking Roman Catholics, and begins with a thanksgiving Mass, or misa de accion de gracis, to give thanks for her family and friends. But the celebration is also a very special birthday party, so much of the festivities also include giving of gifts and enjoying food and dance together. This makes the celebration a wonderful way to learn about the tradition and the Spanish language associated with it.

Here is some distinctive vocabulary and why you need to learn it:

Quince anos = 15 years, or 15th birthday
This is the coming of age time for girls in Latino culture.

Young male companion = Chambelan, or Escorte, or Galan
Seven young males of the court = Chambelanes
Seven young ladies of the court = Damas
The court of young ladies and men, including the quinceanera girl, equals 15.

Traditional Ballroom Waltz = Vals
A choreographed dance performed by the Court of Honor, often with classical European music.

Godparents = Padrinos
The girl’s godparents often give the primary gifts, but guests invited to the event also bring gifts that reflect the girl’s personality. Though the event has religious rituals, it also is a huge party designed to include as many friends and family members as possible.
Gifts and fun are an expected part of the day.

The primary gifts are symbols for life. The girl wears a tiara to represent leaving her childhood and living a life in victory over challenges of her adult environment, she receives a bracelet or ring to represent the circle of life and her ties to her community, she receives earrings as a reminder to listen to God’s word, and a rosary or prayer book as religious resources.

Tiara = tiara, a symbol of victory
Cross = cruz, or Medal = medalla, symbols of faith
Bible = La Biblia
Scepter = cetro, a symbol of elegance

Shoes = los zapatos
The guest of honor will wear flat shoes at first and will be presented with a pair of elegant high-heeled shoes to represent that she has entered womanhood. Her mother will often change the girl’s shoes for her, in a special ritual at the party.

The Last Doll = la ultima muneca
The celebrant is given her last doll to symbolize leaving childhood.

The toast to the girl of honor = El brindis por la quinceanera
This toast is part of the common rituals at the birthday party.

These are some of the traditional basics when it comes to a Quinceanera, but if you would like to learn more, there are hundreds of online resources to review. There are, of course, hundreds of variations on the theme. You will discover that some websites offer English to Spanish translations for their pages. This is a great resource for learning Spanish because you can compare the English and Spanish versions on the spot.

Now, if the invitation to attend comes to you, you will be able to attend knowing that you have some of the basic Spanish vocabulary learned and ready to go. All you will need is a gift, and your best attire, and you will be ready for the party!

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