“Quinceañeras are birthday traditions whenever a girl turns 15 we celebrate. It’s our marking of you entering womanhood and what that is is once the day comes and you turn 15 you have this big party. Everyone gets together…the custom big dress. I think one of the bigger parts of it is you see like a father-daughter dance…it’s a way of showing that this is my little girl and she’s growing up now…she’s not my little girl now. It’s just a way of celebrating with your family…you know that milestone. At the biggest parties you have extended family…family you don’t see often is expected to come. My mom wasn’t able to have one but because of that like it’s really a big deal now that you do have one for your children…it’s expected…it’s tradition.”
One of my roommates is Mexican and she was sharing this birthday tradition many people in Mexico partake in. She had always known of this tradition since she was younger since it had been so prevalent in her community. For a long time she “hated the idea of having [her] own” as she “did not like the idea of being the center of attention.” That being said, she later learned that it was more about being with family and she “focused on doing it for her parents because [her] parents raised [her] and a big part of [her] quince was to thank her parents.”
I think this is a very interesting birthday tradition. In the United States, a sweet 16 is kind of similar to a quinceañera, but at the same time, there is a lot more history behind a quinceañera. This is the time in which a girl transitions from childhood to young womanhood. Quinceañeras are also most prevalent in Mexico, so by having one you are showing your heritage and connection to the Mexican community. The scale of quinceañeras is very large; all the planning and specific features the party includes. Oftentimes the whole family is expected to be there (extended family included) and festivities include dancing, food, and enjoying one another’s company.
In Korea, a child’s first birthday is called 돌 (Dol), and is celebrated extravagantly with many guests and festivities. From what I learned from my parents and upperclassmen, this celebration dates back to much older times. The reason that the first birthday is so celebrated is because during the time period, babies did not often live long enough to become one year old meaning that when they did survive, it was almost a miracle. This tradition continued on, celebrated by each family for each of their children. Back when I lived in Korea, I went to my younger cousin’s 1st birthday. Almost the entire family was there, along with friends, neighbors, and loved ones. My cousin was wearing traditional Korean clothes, which is known as a hanbok. The thing I remember most is actually one of the key traditions: the fortune-telling ritual. It is the most memorable part of the celebration, when many items including money, yarn of string, rice cake, books, noodles, etc are laid out in front of the child. The adults urged the child to pick up an object out of the many objects displayed before him. The reason for this was that when the child picks up an object, it is an indicator of what kind of person the child would be when he grew up. Indeed, each item was symbolic for a particular future. For instance, the yarn of string symbolizes longevity while the rice cakes symbolize good fortune and strength. Picking up a pen or book would indicate the child would become a scholar, while picking up money means that the child will become wealthy. Everybody eagerly waited for my baby cousin to choose and cheered when he finally picked something up. After this, the guests went up to play with the baby. They gave gifts to the parents to congratulate them and were very much jubilant and cheerful. The food, too, was very traditional. In front of the baby was set a mountain of rainbow colored rice cakes. This was meant to symbolize prosperity and good fortune for the baby. In addition, there were fruits and seaweed soup as well. Seaweed soup is actually a symbol for birthdays and is traditionally eaten every birthday starting with Dol. It was truly not a quiet, reserved party. Everybody was talking, enjoying themselves, and having fun with the baby or talking to the parents about how much they wished good fortune for the baby’s future. Shortly after, the guests began to leave after having blessed the family and given them gifts to commemorate the special day. This day was ultimately very important to me because in my eyes, these events were a time when many relatives, even very distant relatives, would come together. Regardless of where they were or how much had changed, they decided to come together to celebrate the healthy child and to have time to catch up on each others’ lives. If anything, it also was a symbol of how much the parents treasure their beloved child and the hopes that they have for the child they are raising.