USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘glass’
Initiations
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Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Breaking of the Glass

Nationality: American

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): None

Age: 62

Residence: New York City, USA

Performance Date: April 8, 2017 (Skype)

 

Alan is a 62 year old man, born and raised in New Jersey who is a 2nd Generation American whose ancestry is Austrian and Russian.

 

Interviewer: Good Evening. When I asked you about Jewish Wedding Traditions, you told me about your personal experiences with that of Breaking of the Glass. Can you explain further.

 

Informant: I would be very happy to do this. I remember when I was eight years old at my Uncle Jerrys wedding that I was the ring boy.  It was a traditional Jewish Wedding and Uncle Jerry and his bride stood under a tent called a Chuppah. I later learned about what the meaning was. I am not going to get into ah here…you can read all about it online.  It is well documented. So anyway, getting back to the breaking of the glass.  So when my job as ring boy was over, the ceremony was ending and then um, Uncle Jerry stomped on this white cloth on the floor and then I heard this sound which sounded, um like glass breaking. Then all the crowd of people at the wedding shouted. At the time I didn’t know what they shouted, however I would latter learn it was Mazel Tov, um which, I mean is a Jewish word for good luck.  At that moment I was so taken by how happy the people were and I thought the glass breaking caused everyone to become so happy.  I remember when everyone left where the wedding ceremony took place I went and very carefully to pick the white cloth up containing the glass. I remember carrying this cloth with the glass like it was the most valuable thing I ever held.  Anyway after everyone ate, I found Uncle Jerry and his new bride Audrey, who later divorced, and I presented the glass in the cloth.  They asked me what this was and as typical eight year said don’t you remember it is the glass you broke and then everyone cheered.  I um then told them that I thought you might want to keep the glass to remind you of the happy times. They looked puzzled and then laughed and took the glass and went on talking to other guests. Upon later learning of their divorce many years later and um speaking to Uncle Jerry I mentioned that the glass didn’t bring them any happy memories. He looked at me like he didn’t understand what the heck I was talking about.

 

As I got older I learned and understood more about Judaism I learned about the meaning of the glass breaking was all about.  There are a lot of interpretations about this, but one fact which is agreed that it commemorates uh the destruction and, sorry, destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.  Of course all the sorrows that brought but also remember for the wedding aspect of this tradition that you know that there will be good and happy times. Other sects of Judaism have other beliefs as well and it is open to many different um shall we say schools of thoughts. Such as the couple comes together by the smashing of the separate bonds or another is the reuniting of the two souls as ah lifelong mates.  I always felt that it was a beautiful thing in that it announces to the world the couple’s union as husband and wife and announces the journey in life as one united. I am very sorry I am going on and on.

 

Interviewer:  No that’s OK. This is a great story, please.

 

Informant: OK then. Glad you are still interested. So oh where, oh let me see, yes, so I liked this tradition so much that at every Jewish Wedding that I attended that I would collect the glass, this time being smarted about things and carry a plastic zip lock bag, so to keep everything intact. Then I would present it to the couple afterwards and explain what I told you before and all the time the couple was thrilled to have it.  I vowed that when I got married that I would save my glass and if I could turn it into something which could be displayed.

 

Interviewer: What does this piece mean to you?

 

Informant: While this meaning of the tradition of the glass breaking has multiple other meanings other than the one everyone agrees about the destruction of the temple, the meaning for me always holds great optimism about a couple coming together to hopefully live a joyous and loving life together.

 

Thoughts about the piece:

A surprising number of manufacturers create vessels for this ceremony of destruction, similar to inexpensive plates sold to be broken at Greek weddings. Another Jewish fable about remembrance; two souls reunited as one, at: http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/542288/jewish/Why-Break-a-Glass-at-a-Wedding.htm?gclid=CJyfvcSzpNMCFUSBswody4QOww

Some other Jewish wedding day traditions at: https://www.theknot.com/content/jewish-wedding-ceremony-rituals

 

 

 

Kinesthetic
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Breaking of the Glass and the Huppah in Jewish Wedding Tradition

The informant is a 67-year-old Mexican-American woman who is a reverend. She is known for tailoring wedding receptions to couples from different cultural backgrounds, and in her words “taking old traditions and giving them new meaning.” Many consider her to be the “guru of new wedding traditions.”

While out to breakfast while the informant was visiting me in Los Angeles, I asked her to describe any wedding ritual or tradition that has stood out to her throughout her time as a reverend. Her response was as follows,

“Well, there are many traditions drawn from each culture, and the couple always gets to choose which they would most like to incorporate. One in particular that is almost always a part of weddings where the bride or groom is Jewish is the breaking of the glass. I’d say 99% of the time if either of the two is Jewish, they’ll do this. Basically, I bless a wine glass, wrap it up in a linen cloth, and place it at the groom’s feet. He then stomps on it. This represents how fragile life is and dates back to the suffering of the Jews. In some weddings, the breaking of the glass is done under a huppah, a cloth that is held up to create a canopy over the bride and groom. The four ends of the cloth represent the four directions, and the couple standing underneath it means that they will build a life and home together.”

On the surface, the breaking of the glass is a lighthearted wedding ritual that is fun for both the groom and all who watch him perform it. Under normal circumstances it is taboo to purposefully shatter a glass, and the ridiculousness of the groom doing so on purpose serves as a source of laughter for the wedding attendees. The significance of the ritual is actually very heavy, representing the ease at which our lives can be taken and the history of persecution that the Jewish people have endured. It is most likely important for the fragility of life to be highlighted at such an important transition in one’s life as a wedding to serve as a reminder to the bride and groom, along with the audience, not to take one another for granted and to make each day special. I asked the informant the significance of the huppah representing the four cardinal directions, and she responded that she was not entirely sure. Since the couple standing underneath the canopy during the ceremony is symbolic of their future life together, it is possible that the four directions provide a physical representation of the permanent connection forged between the newlyweds—no matter where in the world they may be, they are connected to one another beneath their commitment to marriage.

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