Adulthood
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Rituals, festivals, holidays

Satin Donation Bag: Italian Wedding Tradition

Joanna Estrada is a special needs teacher living in Los Angeles, California. She is 60 years old and has three daughters. Joanna has lived in Southern California since birth, moving from Redondo Beach to Torrance in her mid-twenties. Her father was Irish and her mother was Italian; as such, she grew up surrounded by multiple cultures and was brought up in the Catholic tradition. In the excerpt below, Joanna describes a tradition that would take place during Italian wedding receptions. After the wedding ceremony, guests would congregate at the appropriate reception location and pass around a bag made from satin material. They would place money in the bag, and then present the donations to the newly wedded couple as a collective wedding gift:

Joanna: “It was customary to collect wedding donations during receptions. At all of the traditional Itaian weddings, someone would pass around a bag made of white satin. The guests would put as much money as they wanted… it could be a small donation of $5 or a big donation of $100 or more. They’d put it in the bag, and at the end of the reception, someone would present the bag to the couple. It was always fun to watch because it was kind of unexpected.”

Here, Joanna describes a folkloric wedding custom. Collecting money in a satin bag is both a folkloric gesture and ritual; it qualifies as a gesture because it is a widely recognized and encouraged practice that involves a specific action (i.e. collecting money in a specific type of bag); it also qualifies as a ritual because it takes place during weddings, which are largely considered to be special holidays. If one were to donate money (via satin bag) to a newly married during their reception, they would be demonstrating their familiarity with Italian wedding customs and taking part in a collective activity.

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