Friday, September 11, 2009

Esperanza Rising - Birthdays

Esperanza Rising begins with Esperanza anticipating her 13th birthday party. Esperanza and her friend Marisol are already dreaming about their Quinceañeras!

I've looked and looked, but don't find any special Mexican traditions for birthdays that are significantly different than the "standard" American birthday.

Perhaps there might be a piñata, but Esperanza doesn't mention that as part of her expected celebration.

She's mostly looking forward to being seranaded by Las Mananitas, the traditional song they sing at dawn to awaken the Birthday Person, and before they cut the birthday cake. It's very different than the "Happy Birthday" song we usually associate with birthdays. Here are the words and translation, and here's a version to watch:


The major things Esperanza seems to be looking forward to are the fiesta - the party with all the decorations, and the papaya, coconut and lime salad, and especially the gifts.

Esperanza doesn't mention a cake, but one of my very favorite Mexican cakes is the Tres Leches Cakes. There's an excellent demo of how too make one at the Pioneer Woman blog.

And Esperanza is especially looking forward to her Quinceañera - the traditional girl's fifteenth birthday celebration that combines the attributes of a Sweet Sixteen party, and a society "coming out" party." After the quinceanera, a Mexican girl is traditionally considered to be a woman, and ready to marry.
When they were all together, they talked qbout one thing: their Quinceañeras, the presentation parties they would have when they turned fifteen. They still had two more years to wait, but so much to discuss - the beautiful white gowns they would wear, the big celebrations where they would be presented, and the sons of the richest families who would dance with them. After their Quinceañeras, they would be old enough to be courted, marry, and become las patronas, the head of their households, rising to the positions of their mothers before them.
Quiñceaneras are small or very elaborate, depending on the financial resources of the girl's parents. I heard about a wonderful tradition, to help defray the very high costs of the elaborate celebrations. The mother of the birthday girl contacts the girl's godparents (there are usually many godparents!), and each helps subsidize a portion of the celebration - the gown, the crown, the shoes, the catering, etc. What a wonderful way to share a celebration!

What family or cultural birthday traditions do you and your family celebrate?

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