USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘bride’
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Ethiopian Wedding Traditions

Context & Analysis

The subject and I exchanged stories of our family’s traditions while sitting in a class discussion. She mentioned that she and her family were from Ethiopia, so I asked her if she knew of any unique Ethiopian traditions that westerners might not be familiar with. She provided me with an overview of traditional Ethiopian weddings gathered from the ones she and her family attend on a (mostly) yearly basis. She emphasized how many of the ritualistic parts of the wedding preparation are altered or substituted depending on each family’s preferences or personal ties to the country. The transcription is a little disjointed at times because the subject attempted to recount a variety of wedding traditions encapsulated in the ceremony. It was quite interesting to hear a younger woman’s take on these traditional ceremonies.

Main Piece

“So…for Ethiopian weddings…it’s like a, um, a couple days long process—actually it can take up to a month usually. I have 8 aunts on my mom’s side so—and I’ve been alive and I’ve missed three weddings—so every single summer someone is getting married. So like the whole summer we go back to Ethiopia or we travel back to where they are and so actually…there’s a process you do when you have your weddings. So first there’s the, uh, bride’s family celebration and they wash the bride’s feet in honey and milk and, um, they do all her makeup and beauty and stuff and they’ll like play this game there where the groom tries to break in [to the room the bride is in] and they’ll be like “No you can’t be in there!” [laughs], and that’s pretty cool. And these things are mostly ritualistic, like you’re not actually pouring milk on the bride’s feet but some people do. I’ve been to a couple of weddings where people have, um, and that is traditionally the night before the wedding. And the day of the wedding it’s—with my family it’s a lot of pictures and posing. I know with traditions they have the husband—the groom—has to kill a bull, or like a goat, and they cook it for dinner, like the wedding dinner. Like in most American ideas of [a traditional Ethiopian] wedding this happens but it’s like miming, which is like kind of a new tradition, um, but yea. There’s a huge selection of Ethiopian foods and a huge section of raw meat, that’s a thing that people eat a lot, and afterward you have a big dinner the day after which is the bride and groom’s first big party together, hosting like their friends and family. And it’s basically everyone goes over during the day—it’s not like a nighttime celebration—um, and then after that (I cannot remember the name of it). It’s just the bride and groom’s parents and they serve them dinner for the first time, like as a couple, um, in their own house. There’s a lot of ritual of, like, respecting your elders and stuff.”

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Legends

Any Woman should be Lucky to Marry a Cornell Gentleman

Item: When you get married at the chapel at Cornell the building was not designed with a room for her to prepare and wait.  The only room separate from the main building is the crypt, which happens to also be the place where the founders are buried.  So the legend goes that if the bride gets cold feet, the ghosts of the founders will rise from their graves and escort her down the aisle because any woman should be honored to marry a cornell gentleman.

I first heard this story when I went on a college tour of Cornell, but I asked my friend about it, since she goes there.  She liked the story because along with being fun and mystical it makes her school look good, since any woman would be lucky to marry a man who went there.

I think this is an interesting superstition because it is very connected to the liminal aspect of the marriage ritual.  The legend is about the time right before the marriage occurs, while everything is still in flux and everything can still go wrong.

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Rajasthani Wedding Games for the Bride

Rajasthani Wedding Games and Pranks
1. After the wedding ceremony, the bride goes to her husband’s house where his family will put her intelligence, courage, strength and cooking experience to the test (in a friendly series of games). The exact tests to be performed vary by family, but some that Mayuri listed were:
– The bride enters the house only after kicking a rice-filled pot with her right foot (auspicious one).
– The ring game: a vat is filled with milk and small metallic objects (along with the wedding rings) are thrown in. The bride and groom must reach in together and try and fish out their rings with one hand. The one who does so first will have the upper hand in the marriage!
– The bride must try and hold as many of the gifts that her new family will deposit in her lap. Brides will often use their veils to wrap all her new family’s gifts and carry them around. She must carry as much as she can in her sari (test of her ingenuity and resourcefulness).
– The bride must also pick up every female member of her husband’s family. This is a test of her strength.
Later on, right before the wedding night, the bride and groom will be teased together (especially by the cousins) and pushed and shoved all the way to their highly decorated bedroom.

These rituals are done to ease the liminal period for the bride. Traditionally in India, the bride does not meet her husband or his family before the marriage and so these games are done to ease the transition from her old family home she’s lived in her whole life, to her new home with her husband and his family. In India, families live together and share the same house; therefore, the rituals and games involve the whole family. The bride is also going from an unmarried virgin to a married woman on the wedding night so it is important for the bride to feel comfortable with her husband.

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Rajasthani Wedding Games for the Groom

1. The first time the son-in-law comes to his mother-in-law’s house,  the women in her family fill his mouth with sweets, and he can’t refuse.

2. The Son-in-law will also have to pick out his new wife from amongst all the women in her family (and servants). They will all cover their faces with their veils and group together. The new husband must recognize his bride by her hands and figure; if he picks her out, he gets to spend the night at her side. Otherwise, he has to sleep outside under the stars.

Just like for the bride, the marriage period is a liminal period of transition that needs to be eased. Teh groom is now responsible for his wife and is joining a new family.Unlike the bride’s experience though, the groom is not being tested like the bride for his courage, strength, intelligence, etc. This is probably a carry over form the dowry tradition, back in old days (and to this day in villages and conservative communities) the bride’s family would pay the groom’s family to marry their daughter. Thus, the groom’s family would put her to the test to make sure she was “worth the money” so to speak. Now, the dowry system is uncommon, but the practice of testing the new wife remains.

Adulthood
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Mother Daughter wedding traditions in Hong Kong

Informant Background: The informant is originally from Hong Kong. She now lives permanently in the United States but travels back once a year to visit her relatives in Hong Kong. She speaks both Cantonese and English. Her family practices many of the Chinese traditions, folk-beliefs, and superstitions. She celebrates many of the Chinese holidays through cooking of special “holiday food.”

 

On the wedding day, before the wedding, the bride’s mother will comb the bride’s hair three times… I think the first time is so that the couple will love each other forever. Then second is so the bride can have one child per year… And third is that the bride and groom will grow old together.

The informant learned about this through her aunt and observations of the weddings she attended in Hong Kong. According to the informant this is a common Chinese wedding ritual. She said it is usually a time shared privately by mother and daughter only.

 

I think this tradition clearly reflects how wedding is more than about the bride and the groom coming together but also their relative and other people in their lives. In this case it is the ties between the mother and the daughter. This is similar to Western traditions where the mother would help the bride get ready for the ceremony in a separate room hidden from the crowd.

The bride’s mother is passing down the knowledge and wisdom. The first blessing is so that the bride and groom will have the unconditional love as her family. The second reflects how the older generation wants the next generation to keep continuing the bloodline through children. It also reflects how marriage is about celebrating reproduction through different metaphors. The third is for the bride and groom to grow old with grey hair together. I think the combing of the hair reflects this idea of beauty since women tends to grow their hair longer than men. Hair color also reflects a person’s age through color. This tradition has the element of the number three which occurs in many cultures through different rituals.

Wedding ritual is a way to always strengthen the ties between the older and younger generation, and younger generation to the next generation. This tradition then keep the mother involve before losing her daughter to the other family. The combing of the hair is also an act a mother would perform when the daughter was younger; this is a way of bringing closure before they say their goodbyes.

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