“Today we begin another part of your life. You are special and God created you for a special purpose, even though you may not know what it is now,” said Father Kazimierz Olesky at St. Matthew Catholic Church in Jourdanton.
His touching words were spoken at the Mass celebrating Jillian Kristene Olivarri’s quinceañera on Sept. 14. She is the daughter of Gilbert and Janie Olivarri of Jourdanton and a freshman at Pleasanton High School. Her current school activities are cheerleading, band and volleyball.
The quinceañera is a celebration of a young girl’s 15th birthday, popular in Hispanic communities, that marks the transition from childhood into adulthood. Just how old is this tradition?
In “Ten Fun Quinceañera Traditions,” Jane McGrath of howstuffworks.com writes that some scholars believe the event derives from royalty in 18th-century Spain. Other experts believe the custom comes from the Indians of Central America’s ancient civilizations.
Many quinceañeras begin with a Catholic Mass featuring various traditional elements, just as Olivarri’s did.
“It is a dying tradition that involves an understanding to really appreciate the symbols and gestures involved,” said Janie Olivarri.
At the beginning of the mass, Father Olesky said, “Your family and friends cared enough to come here. Today we want to be sure that as a young person, you put these values in your life.”
He then blessed the gifts that would later be presented to Jillian at the reception. They included her crown, medallion, ring, Rosary and Bible, bracelet, earrings and the bread and wine. The significance of each item was explained. The white dress symbolizes purity and innocence. The crown signifies that she will always be a princess in the eyes of God. The necklace contains a cross signifying her faith in God and in herself. The ring symbolizes the never-ending love of God. The earrings remind Jillian to always listen to God’s word. The bracelet reminds her to glorify God in her daily deeds and to always do for others. The Rosary and Bible will act as a resource for Jillian to keep the word of God in her life.
Jillian also made a special dedication to the Virgin Mary, another tradition.
Her parents were especially touched by the church service.
“I loved it all, but I was really impressed with the church service,” said Janie. “It was a beautiful service and the words our Father used were so tender and eloquent.”
“It was a very moving, religious experience,” said Gilbert Olivarri.
Before the blessing of the gifts, Jillian renewed her baptismal vows, alongside her parents and godparents, Gilbert and Anna Rodriguez. The candle she used during this renewal was the same candle given to her during her baptism in 1998.
Another traditional part of the event is the Court of Honor. Jillian’s court featured 14 girls escorted by 14 boys, a prince and a princess. Each couple in the court represents a year of her life.
Jillian was escorted by Will Chaney. Serving on her court were: Samantha Bast and Jacob Gaydos, Ashlynn Caballero and William Olivarez, Natalie Carrasco and Garrett Bosquez, Alyssa Dickson and and James Evans, Summer Dinscore and Dillon Stobbs, Cassidy Fernandez and Seth Garcia, Cassie Fullenwider and Johnny Joe Criado Jr., Sophia Herrera and Bronson Bandy, Kaye Hubert and Noah Finkel, Kyla Llamas and Robert Lopez, Holli Morgan and Rustin Tuttle, Ysabella Olivarez and John Lopez, Blair Rankin and Keagan Downs and Jodie Shearrer and Jerrell Mitchell.
Princess and Prince were Delanee Olivarri and Andrew Spiegel.
The girls on the court wore gowns in royal blue, which is the color of Jillian’s birthstone, sapphire.
A reception followed at the American Legion Hall in Jourdanton with a dinner and presentation of the gifts that were blessed at the church. After the grand march and introduction of each couple, Jillian sat in the middle of her friends, as each gift was then placed on her by the sponsors. The sponsors are another part of quinceañera tradition, with friends and family being part of the celebration.
Jillian’s sponsors were: dress- Gilbert and Anna Rodriguez, crown- Jose and Rose Mary Castillo, necklace- David De La O, ring- Bennie and Kristen Spiegel, earrings- Mike and Nancy Olivarri, bracelet- Joseph and Veronica Olivarri, Rosary and Bible- Jerry Olivarri, cake- Jackie Castillo and Cynthia Castillo, invitations- Bennie and Kristen Spiegel, photographer- Chris and Jamie Williams and John and Melissa Camacho; food- Daniel and Delia Guereca, Tomasa Olivarri, Charles and Gloria Mejia, Robert and Genesta Ochoa and Johnnie Mejia; music- Angel and Virginia Valdez, John and Jennifer Rosales, Ray and Sonya Tijerina, Emika Chapa and David and Marisa Douglas; hall- Tim and Terri Carpenter, Juan and Sonya Sizemore, Jeff and Shannon Chicoine, Sherry Garner, Keith and Amy DeAtley.
Jillian wore a white, princess style gown with a bodice adorned with white and silver sequins and beading. The tulle skirt was dotted with sequins to catch the light.
Jillian was also presented with a new pair of royal blue high heel shoes, to replace the white Vans she wore earlier. The changing of the shoes symbolizes Jillian’s departure from childhood and emergence into adulthood.
Jillian’s dance, another traditional and fun part of quinceañeras, began with the father/daughter dance to “My Little Girl” by Tim McGraw. For the mother/daughter dance, they danced as Jillian’s cousin Ysabella Olivarez sang Taylor Swift’s song “Fifteen.” Her cousin’s singing was a surprise.
The entire court then performed a traditional waltz to Kelly Clarkson’s “Break Away.” Guests also enjoyed three more choreographed dances: a boy’s dance, cumbia and girl’s dance. Songs were “Best Song Ever” by One Direction, “Boom Boom” by Kumbia Kings and “Roar” by Katy Perry.
“I really liked the dancing part, because all of my friends were dancing the whole time. I felt like they had a really good time,” said Jillian.
Added her mother, “She has such a good group of guy and girl friends. Her group of friends is another blessing in her life.”
Gilbert Olivarri’s favorite parts were the church service and the father/daughter dance.
“The highlight of the night for me was the dance I had with her. That is when everything just hit me,” said Gilbert.
Their youngest daughter, 11-year old Delanee, also wants a quinceañera. The Olivarris feel more prepared for the next one, now that they know what to expect and how much to budget.
Jillian’s mom ended by expressing the importance of such traditions.
“It was more emotional than I thought it was going to be. It was beautiful for the kids to see, even for those who aren’t Catholic. It was a good explanation and depiction of the quince mass and celebration.
She added, “Nowadays kids are so exposed to materialistic things on TV like My Super Sweet 16, and they get a false idea about what to expect at their parties. It is not all about the fanfare and who can be the most outrageous. There is a special meaning behind the quinceañera and the gifts involved.”
As her father Gilbert said, “It is about family and friends coming together to celebrate the transition in a young girl’s life in a very special way.”