Inculturation/My Culture/Race and ethnicity 7 Tips for the Best Quinceañera of all Time by Nayeli Alvarez As young Latina women, we often find ourselves anxiously awaiting the arrival of one of the most special days of our lives: our quinceañera. In case you, like our friend below, are unfamiliar with what a quinceañera actually is, I’ll give you a brief explanation. via GIPHY A quinceañera is a celebration that family members, particularly parents with the help of sponsors or padrinos, arrange for their daughter when she turns 15. Originally, quinceañeras were meant to introduce a daughter into society, but over the years, they have evolved into a “quince” party in which a girl wears a big poofy dress, dances a waltz with her dad or close male figure (uncle, grandparent, older brother, etc.), and dances a waltz with her “court,” which often includes damas (ladies) and chambelanes (gentlemen) that are either family or friends. It is unclear whether quinceañeras originated as a tradition brought over by the Spaniard colonizers in Mexico, or if they were already an Aztec tradition that developed into the quinceañeras we know today. Either way, they remain prevalent in Mexican, South American, and Central American cultures. Although specific quinceañera traditions have changed over time (like the evolution of the “surprise dance,” which let’s be honest… it’s no longer a surprise. For real. Even your grandma is expecting it.), one super important element remains constant: the spirit of the quinceañera is a spirit of gratitude. This is why a quince typically begins with a spiritual celebration, most often times a Mass, to give thanks to God for the girl’s life. via GIPHY One important thing to keep in mind is that a quinceañera is NOT a sacrament. It is a special blessing in which we get to celebrate the Eucharist with our closest friends and family — and relatives you’ve never met. They’re usually the ones that guilt trip you saying, “¿Apoco no te acuerdas de mí? ¡Si yo te cuidaba cuando eras una bebe!” (“How do you not remember me?! I took care of you when you were a baby!”) And you’re left standing there like… via GIPHY “No tía, I don’t recall,” but smile and nod anyway. Don’t worry, it happens to all of us. Anyway, the important part is that you will partake in the Eucharistic celebration mostly with your closest friends and family, and have the opportunity to thank God for the gift of those 15 years of life. Toward the end of Mass, you will also have a moment of prayer with our Blessed Mother. Planning a quinceañera can be overwhelming, exciting, stressful, fun, and nerve-wracking all at the same time. But lucky for you, I have seven tips to help you make the most of the moments leading up to your quinceañera and as a result, make sure you have the best quinceañera of all time. TIP #1: Do an act of charity with your court. Find some time to give back to your community between dance practice, dress shopping, and tux rental searching. The average quinceañera costs anywhere from $5,000 – $10,000, which is in itself a luxury. So often we take for granted the blessings we receive, so taking the time to give back with your best friends can be an amazing way to get involved in your community! Plus, one of the best ways to thank God for everything He’s given you is to share in joy and love with His people, especially those that are often forgotten by society. Some things you guys can do are feed the homeless in your community (make sure to bring adults with you), sing songs to the elderly in a retirement home, or donate clothes and blankets to your local shelter. Now THAT is #squadgoals. via GIPHY TIP #2: Ask your abuelita what her life was like at 15. If you don’t know your abuelita’s life story, now is the perfect time! As we grow older, it’s important to spend time with our loved ones and make them feel loved, appreciated, and cared for. Listening to her will connect you both in a way that perhaps you haven’t connected before. I guarantee you will find cultural differences, valuable insights, and so much to be inspired by! Plus, we all know our abuelitas are ALWAYS the best cooks and love to feed us, so she might even prepare you a delicious dish while she tells you her life story. Seriously, amazing food and a good story? What more could you want? TIP #3: Take your parents out on a date. Remember when I said what the average cost of a quinceañera is? Yeah, I think your parents deserve a LOT of recognition. It can be extremely stressful for them to plan and come up with a budget for your quince, and it’s important to show them how much you appreciate their hard work. So cook them breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Take them out for a stroll on the beach. Do extra chores around the house. Find something you know makes your parents feel loved and appreciated, and do that for them. After all, they’re two of the people who love you most in this world. via GIPHY TIP #4: Learn more about the Mass. As preparation, research what each part of the Mass actually means. You will learn and appreciate so much more about it and your quince Mass will be all that more meaningful once you understand what is really happening throughout. Start by going to Mass every Sunday and asking your youth minister or priest questions. You can even watch this video to get some motivation. TIP #5: Work on your beauty. And by that I mean your inner beauty. Be kinder and work on the things that take you away from God, such as envy and gossip. Work on beautifying your soul. Often times we are so plagued by society’s pressure to be physically perfect, but the real perfection we should strive for is to be imperfectly and perfectly authentic in the eyes of God. TIP #6: Spend some time with Mama Mary. Go on a hike or nature walk with your damas or primas or best friends and pray a rosary together. Or if you feel more comfortable, you could even do it by yourself! Get to know our Blessed Mother in a more profound way and ask her to guide you as you become a virtuous, kind, and generous woman. Our Blessed Mother is our best example of these virtues and if you ask her to, she will guide you closer to the heart of her Son. TIP #7: Commit time apart to spend with Jesus. And last but most importantly: Really allow yourself to fall in love with Jesus. Visit Him in the Blessed Sacrament, sing worship songs to Him, admire His creation, learn more about Him, read the Bible, watch a movie on His life or on the life of the saints to help inspire you to love Him the way the saints love Him. You can’t love someone you don’t know and the best way to fall in love with Jesus is to truly get to know him.