Updated: September 13, 2012 6:07AM
Take a traditional wedding, combine it with a Sweet 16 birthday bash and top it off with some spicy salsa music. Best I can tell that’s the recipe for a quinceanera.
My family attended a quinceanera last weekend. A former co-worker invited us to his daughter’s 15th birthday party. This was a rare opportunity to submerse my two sons in a vastly different culture. It was also a great time.
I’ve actually been to three quinceaneras. They’ve all started the same way — inside a stiflingly hot Catholic church. Anticipating an air conditioning-free afternoon, I attended the religious portion of the ceremony solo.
This was the part of the quinceanera that reminded me of a wedding. The birthday girl arrived in a formal gown. She had a court consisting of male and female friends. They were all dressed in formal attire, and everyone departed in limos. The church was also decorated with flowers and ribbons.
My family arrived at the reception later that evening. We were among the few folks who didn’t speak fluent Spanish. That didn’t seem to matter, as we were welcomed with open arms.
The dance floor was filled with children also dressed in formalwear. Bubba and Peter eventually joined in, running and twirling with other kids.
At some point, the loud music simply took over 4-year-old Peter’s body. He started shaking his booty like he was Buzz Lightyear switched into Spanish mode.
Now, I’ve never attended a Sweet 16 party, but the quinceanera reception had several elements I’d expect from such an affair. A DJ played trendy music. A chocolate fountain dazzled guests young and old. And, a professional photographer snapped pictures.
We sat down to a phenomenal Mexican dinner. As the meal was winding down, the birthday girl launched into a choreographed dance routine with her tuxedo-clad court. This was like nothing I’ve ever seen.
Her dad participated in the dance number, too. There was also a doll involved, dressed in a formal gown that mirrored the birthday girl. At one point, her parents helped her change into high-heeled shoes.
My whole family took in this event with wide eyes. I studied my boys’ faces and could tell that they knew this was something both out of the ordinary and exceptionally cool. Honestly, I love exposing my boys to these types of cultural events.
After a brief intermission, the quinceanera court returned, this time dressed in casual clothes. This kicked off a modern dance routine. A professional choreographer looked on as the teens twirled and shook in unison. Children of this age can be notoriously apathetic, but this was something the teens obviously worked very hard to perform. Everyone was taking it very seriously.
The crowd roared with approval as the dance number concluded. It was impossible not to smile.
The dance floor then opened to the audience. Couples and kids flocked to the center of the room. It was 10 p.m. and my boys were fading fast (though other kids seemed full of energy).
We said our good-byes and headed home. Bubba and Peter were exhausted. I could tell they had a good time. It was a great party and a valuable experience for my family.
So, happy birthday Elizabeth Ruiz, or more specifically, Feliz Quince Anos!
Howard A. Ludwig is a former SouthtownStar business writer who traded his reporter’s notebook for a diaper bag, becoming a stay-at-home dad.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.