‘Turning point’ | CraigDailyPress.com

‘Turning point’

Fifteenth birthday marks Hispanic girl's passage into womanhood Fifteenth birthday marks Hispanic girl's passage into womanhoodFifteenth birthday marks Hispanic girl's passage into womanhood Fifteenth

Elizavette Ayala was nervous leading up to her big day.

She even had a nightmare that she died on her birthday, May 4, just three days before her appearance in a floor-length white gown for her quinciañera.

“We were waiting so anxiously for it, and it was like, what if something happens by then?” she said.

Fortunately, nothing did, and Ayala was escorted by her parents down the aisle at St. Michael’s Catholic Church at Saturday evening Mass. Her hair was done just right, and she donned a tiara atop her head.

“As soon as I went in the church with all the people, I was nervous,” Ayala said.

When she reached the altar, she was greeted by Father Jose Saenz, who then led her through one of the most important ceremonies in her life.

“It was something really special because I’ve been waiting for it since I was a little girl,” she said. “It’s a really special age for all of us. We only turn 15 once.”

A quinciañera is the religious right of passage ceremony held for Hispanic girls on their 15th birthdays.

Saenz led the bilingual Mass, describing the Catholic and cultural significance of the event in Ayala’s life.

“This is me and Jesus when it comes to things of the faith,” Saenz explained. “I am old enough. I am responsible.”

During Mass, Ayala recited a quinciañera prayer and presented roses to the Virgin Mary for “helping us be a Christian woman like her.”

Then she watched as her nephew, Michaelangelo Ayala, 2, was baptized by Father Jim Fox. Many friends and members of Ayala’s family were there to witness both Christian rituals.

Her mother, Gloria Ayala, gave her a gold ring and necklace containing Our Lady of Guadalupe and roses. Her brother, Jesus Ayala, gave her a Bible.

At the end of Mass, she was followed up the aisle by her 12 young attendants in flowing, blue dresses, and she was congratulated in the foyer.

Then it was time for the party. Shortly after Mass, Ayala hosted a reception at Shadow Mountain Village.

There, she and her attendants toasted with sparkling grape juice.

Her attendants enjoyed running on the dance floor and playing tag.

But not until after Ayala’s traditions with her father, Jesus Ayala. First, he took the shoes off her feet from the ceremony and replaced them with different shoes. The gesture signifies placing wings on Ayala’s feet so she can start the rest of her life.

Then, the father and daughter shared the first dance of the evening.

“When you turn 15, the quinciañera gets to dance with her father,” she said. “It’s the last dance before a father lets go of his daughter.”

She also received a doll, which she threw over her shoulder to those standing behind her, symbolizing that she’s letting go of her childhood.

“They’re really being groomed now for becoming adults,” Saenz said. “They’re not treated like children anymore.”

He related the occasion to an American sweet 16 bash or a debutante ball. Sometimes, the party can be just as extravagant.

“Usually, they start out humble. As time goes on … they start to get bigger and bigger,” Saenz said. “It can be as expensive as a wedding.”

Ayala’s quinciañera, complete with her short-sleeved, white, “simple” dress and multitiered cake, did get pricey.

“Putting it all together was at least past $5,000 with the music and the food and everything,” Ayala said.

But she tries not to get hung up on the price of the event. Instead, she’s focusing on its importance.

Some of her friends ask for cars for their 15th birthdays instead of a quinciañera, but Ayala does not understand that.

“A car, you’ll crash it, and you’ll never remember it,” she said. “You’ll always remember when you turned 15.”

Sometimes, a girl will invite a boy to accompany her, and he’s called a chambelan. Then, the attendants are usually half male and half female.

“I just wanted to do it by myself,” Ayala said.

Quinciañeras typically have secular meanings in addition to the religious ones. Depending on the family’s beliefs, girls are then allowed to wear make-up and begin dating.

The ceremony is seen as a symbol for a girl becoming independent and becoming old enough to make decisions for herself.

Ayala said her father was sad, especially during the dance at the reception, because she is the youngest daughter. It is time to let her go.

And it’s a time for her to find herself and lead her own life.

“It’s kind of a turning point because then you turn into a lady,” she said. “Now you have to depend on yourself.”

Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031 or mperry@craigdailypress.com.

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