Eritrean Wedding Day 1: Day of Blessings

Background provided by DG: DG was born and raised in Redlands, California. Both of their parents were born in west Africa, but more specifically Eritrea. Eritrea is located on the Horn of Africa and adjacent to the Red Sea. They belong to a specific tribe of Eritrea, called Blen (spelled Blien) After war broke out, both of their parents migrated to America.

Context: DG was approached about folklore, which they shared in the middle of the day. They were very enthusiastic about sharing parts of their culture because not many people are aware of Eritrean tradition and culture. They explain some general details about Eritrean weddings, which span for a minimum of three days. 

Main Piece Transcription of interview (contains the context of particular performance and additional background information):

DG: “ So, the first day is … like … the day where they get married, where the bride and groom get blessings from their elders. Ummm … typically there’s A LOT of dancing. It’s like … shoulder dancing (raises shoulders up and down, almost like  shrugging)  … and like … they like kneel over their ancestors … and do their … like prayers.  They also dance with a stick like this (proceeds to pump fist in the air in a very rhythmic manner) … but there is also at one point …. I don’t know the cultural significance of it … but the bride and the groom … individually … like sit and everybody dances around them and they get this white blanket … it’s called a Gabi (proceeds to spell G-A-B-I). And they’d have someone sit with them … so for … like the bride, a little boy sits with them … and like the groom … a little girl sits with them … and they take the Gabi and throw it over (motions as if casting a net over an object) … and like that I guess. You go up … like that … and put it on like that … while you’re singing.” 

Me: “ So … is the Gabi … like … a cloth … or … is it ….?” 

DG: “It’s like a blanket. It’s … like handmade … I wanna say it’s like a cheese cloth, but like … it’s not … it’s cotton. It’s … like … multi-use. It’s like bringing .. the bride and … groom together like bringing the bride and groom over the threshold … or something like that .”

Analysis: This portion of an Eritrean wedding emphasizes the union of two individuals through symbolism and customs. The Gabi seems to be a tangible unifying object that close family and friends use to represent their approval. It seems like past, present, and future is represented in this ceremony. Ancestors are honored and respected. The married couples celebrate their union with loved ones. The young boy and girl who sit next the groom and bride are symbolic of future happiness either to have children or for the children to be happily married.

For more information about traditional Eritrean weddings including images please visit