Tag Archives: Quinceanera

LSS: For a thousand years…

I’ve had a song in my head for two weeks now.

Can’t get it out.

I sing it over and over and over.

Much to the delight of my 14-year-old daughter.

If you’ve ever had a 14-year-old daughter, you will remember how charmed she often is by most anything her parents say, do or sing.

But actually, I’ll take that back. Two weeks ago, we celebrated a Quinceanera for Greer, our 14-year-old daughter. And, no, you’re not imagining things. A Quinceanera is designed to celebrate a girl’s 15th birthday. Our daughter’s birthday is in August, and we just didn’t think it would be much fun to invite a bunch of out-of-towners to Lafayette in August.

April, however, is another story.

April in Lafayette is a perfect time to get a song stuck in your head (thanks to Festival International. If you aren’t there reading this, put on your flip-flops and get on down there.)

But this is not a column about the wonders of Festival International, though there are many. This is a column about that song stuck in my head. I fear it may be there forever.

The song is called A Thousand Years by a young artist named Christini Perri sings it.

During our daughters’s Quinceanera celebration right after the mass at church, she and my husband danced to that song. There were many points in the day that were overwhelming and wonderful — like when the mariachis arrived at the party and everyone began to dance. Like the point in the church service when my daughter publicly identified and thanked 15 people who have had a positive influence on her life. But, that moment in the church hall when those two people I so dearly love waltzed (almost gracefully) is likely one that will stay with me until nothing else does.

You see, as I stood there watching them dance, I was able to take in the beauty and say a prayer of gratitude because I knew deep in my heart what was plain for everyone watching to see. That man wearing the purple bowtie — just like the little girl waltzing in his arms requested — unwittingly lives the lyrics of the song she picked for their waltz as sure as anyone is able. Like the song stuck in my head says, in whatever way it is possible to love someone for a thousand years, my husband has loved that little girl in his arms for that long and will love her for a thousand more.

As much joy as is possible for a person to hold, in that moment, I held it.

To be honest, the whole day was like that, on a slightly lesser scale (other than the near-miss wardrobe malfunction when I turned into Quinceanera-zilla mom — however, thanks to the dedication and willingness of a friend, that crisis was averted).

The point of the Quinceanera celebration is to serve as a formal rite of passage representing the girl entering the beginnings of adulthood. In the days that followed our big event, I suspect that Greer wasn’t so keen on all that adulthood holds. As my husband and I got back to work, Greer spent the bulk of three days cleaning and washing and folding.

I believe all the work she did to help our home and lives recover from the festivities was a good reality check for her. Maybe it helped teach her a lesson: If you’re going to go big, at some point you have to go home and clean — a lot.

Otherwise, life just doesn’t work very well.

How to plan a Quinceanera…

Planning a Quinceanera took more time and energy than my daughter or I expected! There is more to it than meets the eye. While it’s still fresh in our heads, we decided to share our newfound knowledge and advice with others.

On the girl’s 14th birthday, start considering possibilities for the Quinceanera. Where? When? How much? If you come up with a budget, know right here and now that the actual event will double or triple whatever budget you initially set. So, plan accordingly.

I recommend setting the official date and time of the Quinceanera from ten to 12 months in advance. To do so, you should meet with your priest and church.

Spend the next month or two researching, looking at photographs and deciding how formal or informal you want your event to be and where the party will be. About eight months before the event, start the official dress search. Try to have it picked out within that month. It set the tone for much of the rest of the event.

As much fun as it is to think about the party, start thinking also about the Mass. It’s a bigger deal than you realize at this point. I highly encourage your daughter to include the Candle Ceremony in the Mass. It’s a simple, but very moving piece of the program. She invites 15 people who she would like to thank for their presence in her life to light a candle. During the Mass, she will call each by name and say a few words of thanks, specifically explaining the positive difference each has made in her life.

It is also time to think about the court. We went with seven girls and eight boys. Our court started practicing their waltz about five months before the event. While they didn’t practice every single week, they practiced most weeks up until the event. Ours was a fairly complicated waltz that came off without a hitch. If you don’t know a good choreographer, consider asking someone in a nearby university’s dance program or a local dance studio.

Start working on the dama’s dresses. They take much more time than you’ll realize.

We’ll continue more later…about the Mass and the fiesta.

LSS: On La Quinceanera

My husband’s family came to the United States from Mexico when he a young boy. Their family did what families do when they move to a place and blend cultures.

They became the new place, but the Mexican-ness still stands.

His family’s passion for their culture has further convinced me that no group can corner the market on pride in its heritage. Large segments of every culture believe their own way of life to offer the best food, the best traditions (even religious ones), the best holidays and the deepest love for their families.

Here in Cajun Louisiana, we do our best to be certain that our daughters know as much as possible about their dad’s heritage and traditions.

That goal was only one of the reasons that months ago we decided to host a Quinceañera for Greer, our daughter who is nearing her 15th birthday. La Quinceañera is a rite of passage for 15-year-old girls of Latin descent. It includes a full Mass at church, specifically designed around the Quinceañera and a party afterward.

The event has been an opportunity to reflect on how fast time flies and our daughter’s burgeoning place in the world. La Quinceañera represents a young girl being escorted into adulthood by her family, witnessed by her community, which includes a full court of 15 of her friends — seven girls and eight boys who learn and perform an elaborate waltz for the gathering. Our court has practiced for months on this dance. Watching the beautiful awkward teenagerness transform into grace has been a thing of beauty.

In essence, during the Quinceañera, the girl steps through an invisible door as a child and comes out the other side as an adult. (Yes, it’s a stretch, but that’s the goal!)

Researchers have proven that the origins of the Quinceañera are traced to ancient customs of the Aztecs. However, the ceremony and its symbolism are similar to other, early cultural initiation rites that occurred throughout the world. Few of which have carried through into our contemporary world.

I have a confession. When I started planning this event with my daughter, I focused a lot of energy on how much fun the party could be and how much fun it would be to see everyone. As I’ve done more research, I’ve realized and come to appreciate its value on so many other levels.

When La Quinceañera emerges on the other side of the invisible door she is choosing to step through, she does so a young woman with new responsibilities. Those who know and love her will see and treat her differently from this day forward. It’s a living affirmation of the adage: To whom much is given, much is required.

Even though we’re all exhausted from the extra work, planning, cooking and socializing, our little event — meager by many standards — has been a good thing for our family.

Specifically, it’s been good for our daughter. Fourteen can be an uncomfortable age for a girl, but in the last few months, she has flourished with the positive attention and appreciated the chance for extra time with friends practicing their Quinceañera waltz. I’m a firm believer that our society needs more positive rites of passage that offer a chance for the almost-adults among us to be challenged to be more responsible. Sometimes a defining point, even a choreographed one, helps bring home the fact of one’s place in the world.

Even in this slightly unorthodox Louisiana version of a Latin American institution, it marks a special event that happens only once in a girl’s life. It has been a time for rejoicing and reflecting on the miracle of life and reaffirming our commitment to family, friends, tradition and community.

Jan Risher’s column runs every Sunday. Email her at jan@janrisher.com.