As the Hispanic culture expands and melds more and more with traditional American culture, celebration traditions also cross over and mesh. You may walk into a Hispanic birthday party that looks no different than an American cookout, or you may find a heavier Latin influence in the array of food, activities and decorations. These general traditions vary widely from country to country, and even in the United States.
A Groaning Table
Hispanics may serve traditional food at a birthday party. Depending on their country's culture, relatives may make pulled pork, roasted or grilled meats and vegetables, tamales wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves, traditional rice dishes like Spanish rice or paella, chile con queso, and regional or local foods like menudo, a hominy-chili soup. These traditional foods often sit alongside contemporary American picnic staples like hot dogs, hamburgers, steak and chicken.
Just for Fun
Hispanic families engage in a number of American and Latin traditional activities and games. Younger children play pin the tail on the donkey, run sack races or do balloon tosses. Most birthday party activities culminate in hitting the pinata, a colorful paper-mache animal or character filled with candies, goodies and sometimes money. Kids line up, and each takes a turn getting blindfolded and turned around three times before she tries to hit the pinata strung up between two trees. A relative sometimes pulls on the string to swing the pinata to make it more challenging for older kids.
A Flowery Scene
Traditional Hispanic birthday decorations include fresh flowers, banners made from colorful crepe or tissue paper, colorful tablecloths and message banners in Spanish or English. Families may buy or make colorful crepe flowers ahead of time to attach to table corners and line fences. Giant tissue paper squares are layered atop one another, the center of the square is pinched and secured with pipe cleaner or wire and then fanned out into paper blossoms. Experienced flower makers may also glue crepe paper to wire to create blossoms.
Marking the Quinceanera
When a Hispanic girl turns 15, she traditionally has what's called a "quinceanera" to mark her passage into young adulthood. Traditionally, the celebration marks her maturity into womanhood, making her available for suitors, and it also reaffirms her devotion to God, connecting the celebration to Hispanics' Roman Catholic and Christian faith. The celebration typically consists of a mass or blessing at a church where relatives present the girl, called a "quince," and perhaps a court rivaling the most elegant wedding courts. A reception and dance or just a small gathering at the home of a family member comes after the church festivities, when relatives gather for a late-night feast of leftover treats from the reception.
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