Quinceañeras, despite being celebrated throughout the Americas, are most heavily associated with Mexico. The tradition has been in the news in recent weeks with the internationally viral debacle that was the XV de Rubí! While Western birthday girls are more familiar with the idea of a Sweet Sixteen birthday party, the quinceañera celebration celebrates the 15th birthday of the honouree and marks her transition to womanhood. Here’s a quick guide to quinceañeras.
While the quinceañera celebrations may have more in common with a wedding than a birthday party, they’re a traditional and enduringly popular rite of passage for many young Latinas; turning 15 is considered a momentous occasion, as it is the moment that they symbolically become young women.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
For many, a quinceañera is seen simply as an excuse for a blow-out party with family and friends, but the actual significance of the tradition is tied into both Catholic and pre-Hispanic culture. Many years ago, this celebration was rather more literal than symbolic; in pre-Hispanic times, 15 was considered the appropriate age to begin childbearing, and in the 20th century the right time to be married. Luckily, this no longer tends to be the case, but even so the quinceañera tradition has endured!
Everyone is familiar with the extravagant aesthetics of many quinceañera celebrations – think over-the-top Disney Princess-esque dresses in outrageous colors (though tradition once dictated that only white dresses were the order of the day), tiaras towering atop painstakingly ringleted hairdos and precariously high heels. The party is also supposed to be the birthday girl’s first time wearing makeup. Both the tiara and the shoes are typically gifted to the quinceañera for the occasion, along with a cross, bible, rosary and sceptre. In fact, the father of the quinceañera will often symbolically change her shoes from flats to heels before the beginning of the ceremony, to signify her transition to womanhood. Another symbolic gift is the Last Doll, representative of the quinceañera’s final childhood concern.
Aside from the gifts and attire, it’s also common to see dolled up quinceañeras in public parks and attractive locations having their professional pre-party photoshoot. Food-wise, expect plenty of traditional Mexican dishes and an extravagant cake, usually of the tres leches variety.
If a quinceañera is done traditionally, there are a whole variety of complex religious and symbolic elements that go into it. The first is that of attending mass prior to the reception (yes, the quinceañera celebration is very wedding-like), at which the quinceañera may receive a personalised pillow to kneel on.
After mass, everyone will head to the party venue, at which the quinceañera receives more gifts, listens to toasts during which family members impart wisdom and dances a traditional waltz with her father, which is often followed by a choreographed routine with her Court of Honour. Speaking of which, another popular tradition is the selection of a Court of Honour! These are usually made up of the quinceañera’s cousins and close friends – the girls are called damas and the boys are chambelanes. However, as well as including friends in the ceremony, godparents (chosen by the parents) are also typically named and involved heavily in the festivities. Oftentimes, it’s these very godparents who foot some of the bill!
We’ve left out just one small detail about the quinceañera tradition, and that is the fact that using ‘quinceañera’ to refer to the party itself is a common misnomer (that we’ve employed throughout this piece!). In Spanish, quinceañera actually refers to the birthday girl, whereas the party is known as the fiesta de quince años. The more you know!
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.