The day before my 15th birthday I wrote, ‘A decade and a ½ seems old.’ 😀 It has been many, many years since I was 15, and I now find that statement to be quite funny. I never had a 15th birthday party, and since I didn’t have a party, I also don’t have any photos from my 15th birthday. This is because 15 is not a particularly special age in Asia, or in many parts of the world.
However in Latin America, the 15th birthday is a very, very big deal for teenage girls. Quince (pronounced keen-say) means 15 in Spanish. The birthday girl is called the quinceañera (pronounced keen-sa-nye-ra) , and the 15th birthday party is called fiesta de quince años in Spanish, or festa de quinze anos in Portuguese-speaking Brazil, and it is celebrated in countries all over the Americas. In the past, the 15th birthday party was a way to present a girl to society, much like a debutante. It signified that the girl was ready for marriage. These days, it’s more of a celebration of the girl like a princess.
When I say that the 15th birthday party is a big deal, I mean it is a seriously big deal, like a wedding. Possibly the most famous quinceañera is Mexican teen Rubi Ibarra García who had a 15th birthday party on 26 December 2016. The video invitation to her 15th birthday party went viral on social media. More than a million people responded to the invitation saying they would attend, and Rubi’s 15th birthday party spawned many memes. In the end, thousands of people attended Rubi’s 15th birthday in La Joya, a small village in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosí. The village normally has a population of 200. Despite added security, one man died during the horse race and another was injured.
Since I never had a 15th birthday party, I thought it might be fun to have a hypothetical one. The dresses that quinceañeras wear are big, elaborate dresses fit for a princess. They are much like wedding dresses. Traditional colours for the quinceañera dress are white or pink, or pastel colours. But really these days, it seems like any colour is fine. For me, the age of 15 was sort of filled with teenage angst. I’m not sure I would have gone with the whole girly Barbie-type dress. Maybe that’s something I would have chosen if I was 5 years old. But if I had to pick a girly quinceañera dress for myself, I would go with this one:
In general, the fiesta de 15 años in every country involves dancing, usually a waltz with the birthday girl and her father. For this post, I’m concentrating on the 15th birthday party in Mexico because the Mexican fiesta de 15 años has many traditions that really resonate with me. The 15th birthday party is a transition, from being a girl to becoming a woman, and the Mexican birthday party has many symbolic touches to reflect this transition. One such element is called la ultima muñeca, or ‘the last doll’. In this tradition, the birthday girl is given a doll at her birthday party. The doll is usually wearing a similar dress to the quinceañera. This doll is the last doll that the quinceañera will play with, and the doll is a symbol that the birthday girl is now giving up childhood toys and becoming a woman.
Another element of the Mexican fiesta de 15 años involves shoes (Finally! Were you wondering when I would get to the part about shoes?). This Mexican tradition is called ‘changing of the shoes’. During the birthday party, before the waltz, the quinceañera changes her shoes from flat shoes to high heels. These are meant to be the quinceañera‘s first high heeled shoes, and like the last doll, they are a symbol that the girl is now a woman.
I only recently found out about this ‘changing of the shoes’ tradition. If I had known about it when I was turning 15, I would have had a party just to get some new shoes. So here are some footwear options for my hypothetical 15th birthday party.
This pair of shoes by Eric Dress would match the quinceañera dress, but in my opinion, the rhinestones are too bling, and the heels are too high for my 15-year-old self to realistically walk in. If I had to pick shoes for the Mexican ‘changing of the shoes,’ I would go with shoes by Venezuelan label, Hot Chocolate Design. I would start with these flat pink Mary-Jane shoes, by Hot Chocolate Design from their Chocolaticas range. These flat shoes have silver glitter soles. Not as bling as rhinestones, but suitably shiny for a quinceañera.
Then, at the party, I would change from the flat shoes to these Mary-Jane high heels, also by Hot Chocolate Design.