By Riley Manning
Last Saturday marked a pivotal moment in the life of Priscilla Thompson, as she commemorated her entrance into womanhood with a customary celebration: the Quinceañera.
A girl’s Quinceanera is a traditional Hispanic ceremony marking her 15th birthday. It is often the girl’s first time to wear makeup, fine jewelry and a formal dress and concludes with a lavish reception.
But the Quinceanera also holds deep religious significance that emphasize gratitude, humility, and love.
“The Quinceanera introduces her to society as a lady for the first time,” said Priscilla’s mother, Raquel Thompson. “As a family, it’s an opportunity to give thanks for another year together. It isn’t about the party. It’s about family and Jesus.”
Quinceaneras are celebrated across the globe – in Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, and elsewhere – and take the better part of the year to plan. In many instances, the parents of the girl seek out sponsors in the community to donate materials or labor to help with the event’s expenses.
Raquel said she began planning the Quinceañera with Priscilla all the way back in June, choosing everything from colors to dresses to food.
“In larger Hispanic and Latino communities, many times a group of girls with birthdays near the same time plan the Quinceañera together,” she said. “The community really comes together to contribute what they can and help make it happen.”
As Raquel and her husband Ted Thompson’s only daughter, Priscilla’s Quinceañera was all the more significant. Relatives and friends traveled from Mexico, Memphis and Nevada to attend.
The Quinceañera follows a pattern similar to the Bar- and Bat-Mitzvahs of the Jewish faith. It begins with a traditional church service honoring the girl and her family, in which Priscilla carried out various customary rituals, including the presentation of 15 roses to Mexico’s patron saint, the Virgin of Guadalupe.
In addition, Priscilla was accompanied by a train 15 young girls in matching orange dresses, each representing a year of Priscilla’s life.
When it came time for her to address the congregation, she called for even more support from her family and her church home, and promised to make them proud.
“I need you now more than ever as I enter this new stage of risk in my life,” she said. “Though my faith is sometimes weak, I will get better every day.”
The Quinceañera was led by Father Lincoln Dall, priest at St. James Catholic Church; Father Albeen Vatti, associate pastor at St. James; and Father Octavio Escobar, Priscilla’s uncle and a priest in Mexico.
“Religiously, Priscilla will renew the covenant that was made with her baptism,” Dall said. “Especially on the occasion of a birthday, it is appropriate to give thanks to God as the author of life. The Quinceañera is a profession of that faith.”
Escobar and Ted said watching Priscilla grow into a woman had been an amazing and quick journey. Despite the ceremony’s tone of sincerity, Ted urged the congregation not to forget it was a gathering of celebration.
“This is a Mass of joy,” he said. “God, we ask you to take her by the hand, and through your grace, allow her to achieve her dreams.”
When the final song was over, Priscilla and a court of friends took a limousine to the reception at the Summit Center. Amid delectables, dancing and princess-themed decorations, the celebration carried on until midnight.