Tag Archives: bride

A Broom and Salt as Housewarming Presents

Main piece: If you move into a new house, you have to take a broom and salt. The salt is so that there’s no tears or unhappiness in the house, and the broom is because you need a clean broom for your new house. My mother-in-law bought me a broom, and she said you don’t want to bring some old dirty broom into your house, and bring the dirt from the old house into the new house. You should have a new broom. 

Background: My informant is a fifty-three year old Jewish woman from Los Angeles, California. Her mother-in-law is a seventy-nine year old Jewish woman from Baltimore, Maryland. She describes herself as a follower of “bubbe-meises” (Yiddish), translated to “grandmother’s fables”, or a more serious version of old wive’s tales that are often accompanied by superstitions. 

Context: There was a discussion of house-warming parties and traditions. My informant, who never had a house-warming party when she moved into her first house with her husband, offered this tradition. While she and her husband had lived together before they were married, they moved cities and into their first house (previously they had lived in an apartment) a little over a year after their wedding. 

Analysis: Moving into a first home with one’s spouse has historically been a momentous and tense situation. In the past, moving into a first home with one’s new husband marks the first time the woman/bride has left her family’s house, and there is the expectation that she will be the one to clean/provide the upkeep on the home, doing most (if not all) of the cooking and cleaning. In Judaism, salt is historically used as a preservative for food, in cooking as a seasoning, and a way to help disinfect wounds, all jobs that would historically have been associated with the wife. The broom, too, would be used by her to help clean the house, and, especially had this been her first home, she may have shared a broom with her mother doing chores at her family home, but wouldn’t have brought that with her when she got married. Additionally, marriage (especially for brides) creates the opportunity for a clean slate, moving fully from the sphere of the family’s home into an adult life, and she wouldn’t use the broom in her father’s house that she would in her husband’s. Although my informant is the primary provider in her marriage, and she and her husband share household responsibilities, the tradition of a mother-in-law giving the new bride a broom and salt to help take care of her son still remained. Additionally, the mother-in-law in question did take care of the household in her own marriage. My informant, despite the misogynistic historical connotations provided with the gift of a new broom and salt, did not find the gift at all offensive, in fact she informed me that she still uses the broom to this day (twenty or so years after it was first given). Whether this is because there was a gap in the amount of time the gift was given (this was not a bridal present, but rather a house-warming one several months after her marriage), or because she understood that it was a tradition, it is unclear. 

Ghanaian wedding tradition

BACKGROUND: My informant, CE, was born in Ghana and immigrated to the US about two decades ago. The following piece is a tradition within Ghanaian culture, something commonly performed at weddings.

CONTEXT: This piece is from a conversation I had with my mom about Ghanaian traditions.

CE: You already know this one but… during a wedding the man, the uh, the groom is supposed to pick the bride out of a line of other covered ladies. He’s supposed to choose the right one [his wife] to prove that he loves her.

Me: I remember from [redacted]’s wedding but have you ever seen something where the groom picks the wrong bride?

CE: They always tell the groom before which one is his bride. So if he chooses wrong he’s in big trouble!

THOUGHTS: The thought of this being a tradition seems pretty horrific to me. I’ve been to quite a few Ghanaian weddings and each time I still clench in fear when the groom has to find his bride. I used to wonder why it was necessary to go through this extra stress, but after learning more about how pranks and shenanigans like this were common in weddings all over the world, it started to become clear that these jokes were not exclusive to Africa. In Germany, for example, it is common for the bride to be “kidnapped” as a wedding day joke.

A Polish Wedding Joke

Main Piece

QJ: “Can it be a dirty joke?”

Collector: “Yes.”

QJ: “A lot of the jokes I grew up with are kind of dirty…most Polish ones are…I think one that my grandfather would say asks what is long and hard that a Polish bride gets on her wedding night?”

Collector: “What?”

QJ: “A new last name.”

Analysis

This joke seems to be fairly popular among Polish people, and I have heard it beyond my informant. In fact, I have heard it outside of the realm of Polish culture, and have seen different ethnic backgrounds attached to it. It seems that many prideful Slavic people make light of their often long and hard to pronounce last names through jokes like these. Given my informant’s background for the joke and explaining that he heard ones like these growing up, I would also assume that his culture and family have more of an openness to tell dirty jokes in front of younger audience. Generally, it would seem that older people have more of a relaxed ability to tell jokes that otherwise would not seem appropriate. This joke also implies a patriarchal society, where a woman would receive something from her husband in any interpretation of the joke, but no jokes suggest the woman giving the man anything.

 

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.”

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.