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Cultural Traditions. Quinceanera vs. Sweet 16 Essay

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Updated: Aug 17th, 2021

In every woman’s life, there are a number of events and traditions that are normally followed in accordance to the girl and her family’s preference. Two of the most noted girl-related traditions, which are also the most compared, are Quinceañera and the Sweet 16. These two events are both memorable to every girl who is in her adolescence year and is turning to face the world of womanhood. Indeed, Quinceañera and the Sweet 16 are two very similar events yet extremely different in many little ways.

Both of these traditions are aimed at showing to the public (or some would say, to the world) that the girl in the family has now turned into a lady. Both of these traditions normally involve friends, families and loved ones.

However there are also a number of differences when celebrating Quinceañera and the Sweet 16. First of all, Quinceañera, as this word imply, is a Mexican tradition which is focused on girls who are 15 years old. Mexicans believe that once a girl reaches 15 years old, she is now ready for the transition from childhood to womanhood. This is a very important part of the girl’s adolescent life as this is their way of celebrating and acknowledging that the “young woman has reached sexual maturity and is thus of a marriageable age” (Hoyt Palfrey, 1997). Sweet 16 on the other hand is more of an American tradition and, as the title implies, is a celebration of the girl’s life as she reaches the age of 16.

Also, Quinceañera is normally celebrated with some religious aspects. This is the very reason why the day Quinceañera usually starts with a mass or a church service.

The birthday girl arrives decked out in a fancy full-length dress – frills, pastel tones and matching hats or headdresses prevail. Flanked by her parents and padrinos (godparents), she is specially seated at the foot of the altar throughout the service (Hoyt Palfrey, 1997).

After the mass, a reception or gathering of all invited guests, families and friends will be held. There will be traditional waltz dance with the parents and other male friends or families. Indeed, having a Quinceañera is really more of a traditional in approach. There are sets of things that are strictly followed and there are a number of rituals, which if will not be done, will make the celebration incomplete.

Meanwhile, the celebration of the Sweet 16 is more of a modern in approach. In fact, some people consider the Sweet 16 celebrations as an advanced version of the more prominent Westernized women-related traditions, the debutante balls. Lavish parties, foods, wines and gifts can be expected as this is commonly held among held by wealthy families and mostly popular in the South. At most times, Sweet 16 is done to achieve two purposes, to present the young women to society and at sometimes to raise funds for charities (“Sweet Sixteen”, 2008).

In some places like Mexico, even though Quincenera is still very traditional with rituals that are strictly followed, some families now allow their daughter birthday celebrants to add more colors to the celebrations like having the 15 balloons and 15 candles (aside from the 15 waltz) (Quinceañera, 2002). The whole idea is to have 15 participants to each of the activity to highlight that the 15th year on the face of the world has now been achieved and that the girl is now ready to more challenging years of womanhood to come.

In the same manner, celebrating the Sweet 16 may sometime vary also. There are places where families would include dances, gift-giving and well-wishing as part of the celebration. Again, the same idea is being followed: to celebrate the girl’s life, now that she has turned 16 and to wish her with the same glory as she face the years of womanhood.

Quinceañera and the Sweet 16 are two practices that help me define who I really am. The information presented above, especially the ways and means that these two practices are being celebrated, shows that I, as a woman, still value traditions. This also shows that, like others, I do believe that any girl will be willing to face the world and show how ready she is to accept the challenges of becoming a woman and having a Quinceañera and/or the Sweet 16 is the first step to take.

References

Hoyt Palfrey Dale, La Quinceañera An Hispanic Celebration of Budding Womanhood. Web.

Quinceanera! A celebration of Latina Womanhood in VOICES: The Journal of New York Folklore, Vol. 28, Fall- 2002.

Sweet Sixteen. Web.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Cultural Traditions. Quinceanera vs. Sweet 16." August 17, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/cultural-traditions-quinceanera-vs-sweet-16/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Cultural Traditions. Quinceanera vs. Sweet 16'. 17 August.

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