Regular visitors to Wonderopolis know we love to celebrate birthdays, and sometimes even half birthdays! Are there any birthdays that are important to you?

Maybe when you become a teenager? Or when you turn old enough to drive a car? Or old enough to vote? There are lots of reasons why certain birthdays might have a special meaning for you.

A quinceañera is a “coming of age" party for girls. It is celebrated in many Latin American countries, as well as in Mexico and among Latino immigrants in other countries. The word quinceañera comes from two Spanish words: “quince" (fifteen) and “años" (year).

As you may be able to guess, a quinceañera is a celebration of a girl's 15th birthday. This special birthday party is celebrated differently from any other birthday party, as it marks the girl's transition from childhood to womanhood.

A quinceañera celebration can range from a small gathering with family and close friends to an elaborate ball with family, friends, classmates, and neighbors. After her quinceañera, a girl is officially considered a young woman.

Quinceañera traditions vary by country and depend on the family's wealth. Traditional quinceañeras include 14 “damas," similar to bridesmaids, and 14 “chamberlanes," male escorts who accompany the damas. There is usually also a “man of honor" who accompanies the “Quinceañera," the young woman turning 15.

In some cultures, the father presents the young woman to the party attendees. Most quinceañeras include a mass at a Catholic church, followed by a photo session and a party similar to a prom.

In Mexico, the birthday girl wears a fancy hairstyle, elaborate makeup and a special dress chosen specifically for her quinceañera. The quinceañera dress is typically similar to what a bride or princess might wear. The Quinceañera also often wears a tiara as a reminder that she will always be a princess to her family.

After mass, family and friends gather for the celebration party, which may take place at a reception hall, ball room or the family's home. The celebration typically includes several waltzes.

The waltz is a very significant moment for the Quinceañera. Traditionally, Mexican girls are not permitted to dance in public until they are 15, except at school dances or family events. The Quinceañera's dance with her chamberlanes is her first public dance as a young woman. Usually the steps to this dance are practiced weeks or months in advance of the celebration.

After the waltz, dinner starts and the most festive part of the celebration begins. Musical groups or a disc jockey will begin to play music. Guests are able to eat, chat, dance and celebrate…often until very late in the night.

With the exception of a wedding, a quinceañera is considered one of the most elaborate and exciting days of a young woman's life.

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