Quinceañera -Industrial-Complex

Every couple months, I hear from other Lutheran pastors who are looking for resources about quinceañeras. I’ve done a few as a pastor of a Spanish-speaking congregation on the border, and enjoy sharing my experiences.

A quinceañera (often abbreviated 15a or XV) is a celebration marking a girl’s 15th birthday. It’s a fun tradition, but it sometimes makes me uncomfortable because (1) there is no equivalent rite for boys and (2) families spend huge amounts of money on the party. Here in Eagle Pass, we have what I call the “Quinceañera -Industrial-Complex.” Lots of money is spent of flowers, space usage, dresses, DJ, limo, photos, etc. It gets really expensive for the girls to be damas (sort of like bridesmaids) in each other’s XVs, and for the boys to be chamberlanes. Sometimes the worship service feels like an afterthought.

In Libro de Liturgia y Cantico, the red Spanish-language hymnal we use at San Lucas, the rite is on page 119, and is almost identical to the rite of Affirmation of Baptism that we use in Confirmation, a few extra prayers. It does not seem to be available online at sundaysandseasons.com in either Spanish or English.

My translations of the Spanish prayers in LLC:

THANKSGIVING (what the young lady prays):
My God, I give you thanks for the gift of life, for my family, for the faith of your holy church, and for this Christian community. I am in your presence to offer myself as your witness in this life. Knowing your witness, I ask for strength and guidance, through Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. Amen

BLESSING BY THE FAMILY
__First Name__, in your baptism we promised before God and the Church to raise you in the fear of the Lord, so that also now we renew our promise to continue loving you and supporting you so that your life continues reflecting the love of Christ. Amen.

The rubrics in the hymnal suggesting doing it during regular Sunday worship, but I can’t imagine that happening here. The ones I have done have been Saturday afternoons with the party afterwards. “Reception” would be a major understatement. It’s not uncommon for the quinceañera to be more fancy and expensive than any wedding reception. I’ve done them with and without communion.

During the opening song, there is a procession, not unlike a wedding. I never know the right order, but I’ve seen the flower girls, parents, godparents, grandparents, damas/chamberlanes, then the girl last. We have a kneeler that we put up front for her during the prayers. There might be some threads of a tradition where just the girl receives communion. I insist on offering it to the whole assembly.

Local Roman Catholic colleagues may or may not be helpful. I get requests for XVs from families trying to avoid the strict requirements in a RC parish, which may include high fees, lots of catechesis, or the parents/godparents being married in the RCC. I struggle with how much prep to do with the family. I’ve usually met twice: once to talk about what faith means in their life, and once to plan the service. I’d be curious to see what other ELCA congregations do in terms of preparation.

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