The Quinceañera, or celebration of a girl's 15th birthday, is much like the American "Sweet 16" celebration. This Latin American tradition, celebrated throughout Mexico, the Caribbean, and Latino communities in the United States, is both a religious and social event that emphasizes the importance of family in the life of a young woman.
In religious celbration, it begins with a mass that is attended by the girl and her family, as well as godparents. The mass is followed by a party or reception, which friends and relatives may attend. This reception is filled with music, dancing, and food, like most Latin American celebrations. The girl is accompanies by a court of maids (damas) and chamberlains (chambelánes).
During the celebration, the girl will make symbolic displays to leave behind her childhood, such as passing a doll to her younger sister. She may, also, wear heeled shoes to indicate her readiness for womanhood. The reception may be accompanied by a traditional waltz-style dance, which is often considered one of the main events. Attendees may, also, prepare toasts and cut a cake. The ceremony is often as elaborate as the family's means allow.
In more modern celebrations, some girls opt for a trip abroad, rather than a party, while others choose to celebrate in a non-tradition manner. The custom, like most traditions, continues to evolve.
In the traditional form, the girl will usually wear a fancy dress. Similar to the Prom celebrations in the United States, the Quince is seen as a rite-of-passage, and a tremendous amount of care is taken in picking the right dress. Some even spend upwards of $1,000 on a dress.