Tag Archives: rural customs

Barber at the Wedding

Main Body:

Informant: This when I was growing up in India, this was still being done. And I’m not sure if it was all of India that was doing this but definitely a lot of Northern India. For some strange reason, when you got married, typically it was an arranged marriage, right? So, at some point, the girl’s dad would talk to the priest. They’d figure out what’s a good, an auspicious day for the wedding. But for some strange reason, and I don’t know what that strange reason is, the barber in the village, he would be the one to take the message about the wedding’s dad across to the groom and his family. It was always the barber. 

Then when you actually went to the wedding, it would always be at the girl’s place. So the girl’s family is already there, the whole extended family. And the groom’s family comes and they all meet and some money is always given or exchanged. So one of the first people who would always be recognized, and don’t ask me why, would be the barber of the girl’s village.

Interviewer: So, no matter what, this is one of you obligations as a barber? No matter if you know the girl’s family or not you have to be involved in the wedding in this specific way?

Informant: Yes, it’s like a village thing, you know?

Interviewer: So it’s a rural thing, it’s not an urban thing?

Informant: Good question, I don’t know the answer. So yeah the barber gets recognized by both families and he gets some money. Barbers typically were lower classes, so he wasn’t treated exactly equal but he would be taken along with the rest of the wedding party. 

Background:

The informant is my father who was born and raised in northern India in the state of Punjab and immigrated to America over 20 years ago. He was raised for a time in a rural village setting which is where much of our family comes from and this tradition is one he noticed being practiced in those rural, village weddings. This did not happen in his own wedding.

Context:

I am back home due to shelter-in-place. One night when my family was sitting in the study I asked my father if he had any folklore samples I could add to the archive. This was one of the ones he shared with me.

Analysis:

This is a very interesting tradition. I think it somewhat makes sense that when the two families finally meet that the barber is one of the first to be recognized because it’s the barber that relays the choice of date between the two families. So in a way, this could be recognizing the barber for their part in making the wedding happen. What is less clear is why the barber specifically is given that responsibility in the first place. It could be that a barbershop is typically regarded as a community center. It’s where everybody goes because everyone needs their hair cut. So it could be that the barber, knowing more people than most other people in the village would, is given the responsibility being a sort of “community representative.” Any elected leader of the village would not be given the responsibility as it would be “beneath them.” But the barber, being of lower class, would be the perfect candidate.

Pust

Pust is a pagan holiday that is celebrated in Slovenia in the beginning of every February. Designed to scare away the winter cold, this festival is mounted to celebrate the coming of Spring. Young men are the main arbiters of some of the festival’s central traditions, as they don terrifying masks and large suits made of animal furs. Most of the masks represent different characters that recur in Slovenian folklore which are generally localized to particular regions, the principle character being called the “kurent.” [the informant could not offer any more examples of such characters and what they represent.] These costumes are paired with belts from which hang many cowbells, and the young men enter the center of the village in a procession of aggressive dancing and grunting. The idea behind this is to scare away the dark, evil spirits of Winter, in the hopes that Spring will bring good tidings and a prosperous year of harvest. Pust usually takes place in the rural villages of northern Slovenia, the Gorenjska region especially.

More modern exhibitions of this festival in different parts of Slovenia allow all children to participate and go door to door begging for candy and money, much like at Halloween in other parts of the world.

Born and raised in former Yugoslavia, what is now known as Slovenia, the informant was continuously exposed to folk traditions that originated and permeated this region. The festival is a kind of protective ritual to ensure a short winter. It is riddle with celebratory symbols of dominance and fertility. For example, the suits are made from the pelts of animals these young men had killed, demonstrating their capability of providing for the well-being of the village.