Archive for Monday, May 17, 2010

Quinceañera ceremony for young Lawrence girl brings Latin American tradition to Lawrence

Weeks before the Quinceañera, Alia Eryn Zilliox tries on her dress in Topeka.

Weeks before the Quinceañera, Alia Eryn Zilliox tries on her dress in Topeka.

May 17, 2010


Lawrence girl celebrates Quinceañera

Alia Eryn Zilliox follows in her mother's footsteps with a coming-of-age ceremony at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church. Enlarge video

On one of my travels to Cuba, I saw young girls in white gowns being paraded around their town in the back of a Jeep. I soon learned it was the ceremony called Quinceañera, marking the coming-of-age of a 15-year-old girl, complete with a church ceremony and a party.

Recently I observed another Quinceañera — this time, in Lawrence. It was a family experience, as 15-year-old Alia Eryn Zilliox had her Quinceañera at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church.

The Lawrence teenager’s friends — called the court of honor — along with her relatives and other friends were on the guest list for the traditional ceremony.

For Alia, the ceremony meant she was following a path her older female relatives already had traveled.

“I was in my cousin’s,” she said.

And, of course, her mother, Melinda Zilliox, had her own Quinceañera when she was 15.

“I think for the both of us, just the whole entire family, it was really important to all of us,” Alia said. “I think people say, ‘Oh you’re a woman now.’ It’s important to have the ceremony to say, ‘I really am.’

“I went through a process.”

Alia’s mother and other family members worked to plan the ceremony and celebration that followed.

The day of Alia’s Quinceañera started early. There was much to do. And not much time. There was a 9 a.m. hair appointment to sweep her brown hair up. She quickly dressed in her white gown at the hair salon before heading to the church for the 11 a.m. ceremony.

Family and friends packed St. John’s to witness the simple, yet elegant, tradition. Alia’s court of honor — all of the girls were dressed in pink — led the way. And then it was Alia’s turn. As she walked down the aisle in her white gown, everyone smiled.

For Alia, the 45-minute ceremony was nerve-racking.

“I was thinking about my hair and people staring at me from behind, and hoping my hair wouldn’t fall down,” she remembers.

The ceremony included Bible verses and singing. She received six gifts from her aunts and uncles: a Bible, a bouquet of flowers, a ring, a bracelet, a rosary and a tiara. Each of them was blessed by the Rev. John Schmeidler, and each holds meaning: closeness with family and with God, and the passage to womanhood.

Later that day, the celebration continued with a party at the Knights of Columbus hall. As the festivities started, Alia and her court of honor were introduced. Then Alia danced with her uncle, Joe Ramirez.

A cake, with candles marking Alia’s age, was served, along with traditional Mexican dishes. The party continued well into the night with dancing to traditional music.

Now, Alia no longer is considered a child; she is a young woman.

“I do feel like it has changed me,” Alia said. “Even though most people say, ‘Oh it doesn’t change you,’ I think it has, as far as I need to take on more responsibility. I think it has.”


Flap Doodle 8 years ago

Considering that Cuba has the most repressive government in this hemisphere, I'm amazed that they let their subjects celebrate anything except May Day and Fidel's birthday.

David Albertson 8 years ago

Do you have to make everything political? Get a life.

yankeevet 8 years ago

Oh yea; this is really a great thing; yes; the coming of age of a young woman; wtf???

tomatogrower 8 years ago

Maybe if everyone had a ritual to end childhood and begin adulthood, they would take their responsibilities more seriously and not turn out like Pywacket. Because we got rid of old traditions and didn't replace them, many kids think being an adult is when you can drive, have sex, and drink, shallow celebrations of what it truly means to be an adult.

yankeevet 8 years ago

well; piewax; u are most welcomed!!!

Jim Williamson 8 years ago

Yeah, I was invited to probably a dozen of these for friends back when I was in high school in the 1980s. It's a big deal for the young woman, but big picture, qunceaneras are not an earth-shattering deal. They happen every weekend.

MojoCatnip 8 years ago

I'm with you P. This site is littered with naysayers and negativos. Run-on sentence alert, but here goes: Remember when you were in college and there was always the dude that raised his hand in class and tried to challenge the teacher on an established fundamental of the class curriculum because they wanted to look smarter than the rest of the class but all the really smart people were busy taking notes and thinking about the subject and trying to ignore the idiot trying to look smart? Yeah, that's these guys.

Steve Mechels 8 years ago

I hope this one didn't end as many that I have seen; in a drunken brawl. Never could understand how someone could ruin another's special day by being such an a**

foppa 8 years ago

I am sure if this writer talked to people around Cuba, he would have found out that the ceremony is actually called "Quinceaños" and the girl participating in it "Quinceañera." I am from Mexico and have never before heard of someone calling the actual ceremony a "Quinceañera" until I moved to the U.S. Calling the girl "Quinceañera" (not the event) actually makes sense in Spanish grammar. Just like we call ladies who make tortillas "tortillera," women engineers "ingeniera," women cooks "cocinera" etc. I am not sure where this "Qunceañera" = "Quinceaños" started. Probably the same place where they thought 5 de Mayo was Mexican independence day...

anonyname 8 years ago

"Quinceaños" may well be grammatically correct, but it's not common usage here. I lived in two different states with significant Hispanic populations before I moved here, and in both states the families and young people called the event itself a quinceañera. This was true even among families who had moved here from Mexico and still visited there regularly. has 145 books about quinceañeras...and one about quinceaños.

foppa 8 years ago

I call it "Quinceañera" too because if I said "Quinceaños" people would have no idea what I'm talking about. I am not saying that 'quinceaños' is grammatically correct, but everyone refers to it as 'quinceañera.' I am saying that Latin Americans, not in the U.S., commonly refer to the ceremony as 'quinceaños,' and the girl as 'quinceañera.' Then, i gave some examples of the other words in which we use the ending -era to refer to a girl that does a certain action. I know that it is common to refer to the ceremony as "Quinceañera" in the U.S. But the writer implies that he learned about the ceremony in Cuba, which means they would have called it "Quinceaños" or fiesta de quince años. Every latin american web site I checked refers to the ceremony as 'quinceaños.'

In reality, it doesn't matter. Its annoying to me, but it doesn't matter.

Paul R Getto 8 years ago

Wonderful tradition and great for the families. Congratulations to all involved.

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