Tag Archives: marriage

Persian Sugar Rubbing Ceremony

Informant’s Background:

The informant is my (not-blood-related) aunt, who married my uncle on my Dad’s side. She is from Iran, and moved to Canada a few years before marrying my uncle. They had a traditional Persian wedding.

Context:

My uncle and aunt were visiting us, and so I asked my aunt about a particular tradition I saw practiced at their wedding.

Performance:

AN: “Ah, yes. At the wedding we grind sugar cones together and put it over the white sheet that’s held over the bride and groom’s head as a symbol of them having a sweet life together for the rest of their lives.”

Thoughts:

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to ask many questions as it was a busy day, but the ritual seems in-line with many wedding rituals, in that it is good-spirited, and intended to bring joy and happiness to the newly wedded couple.

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. 

The Wedding Band in Jewish Marriage Ceremonies

Main piece: Before my husband and I got married, we went to see the Rabbi that was set to perform the ceremony, and he said that among the objects we had to have for the ceremony was a different wedding band. Because the engagement ring I had on had diamonds, and traditionally, Jews don’t wear diamonds to their own wedding. He also said the ring had to be large enough to fit on the index finger of my right hand, because, according to him, this has the blood supply that is closest to your heart. So I borrowed my mother’s platinum wedding band, which was large enough to fit on my index finger because my mother’s hands are much larger than my hands. And if you watch the video of my wedding, you’ll watch my husband placing my mother’s wedding band on the right index finger. After the ceremony, I gave my mother back her wedding band, and I slipped my own diamond engagement ring back on the fourth finger of my left hand, which is the traditional place people wear wedding rings. 

Background: My informant is a fifty-three year old Jewish woman from Los Angeles, California. She and her husband were married by Rabbi Joel Rembaum of Temple Beth Am in Beverly Hills, CA in 1999.

Context: The first my informant heard of this tradition was during the meeting with the Rabbi at their meeting leading up to their wedding. While she honored the Rabbi’s wants, and believes that the maybe the index finger has the blood supply that leads closest to one’s heart, she has been wearing her wedding rings in the Western tradition (fourth finger of her left hand) for as long as she has been married. 

Analysis: Interestingly, the origins of the Western custom of putting a ring finger on the fourth finger of one’s left hand has the same belief as the Rabbi’s custom – that the ring finger has the “vena amoris”, or has a vein that runs directly to the heart. This has been biologically disproven; there is no one vein in one’s that leads to their heart, and the vasculature in one’s hands is all pretty much the same. However, in Jewish tradition, there is no talmudic evidence that a couple even needs wedding rings to sanctify or represent a marriage, and in fact the groom could give the bride anything of value as a representation of their intimacy (books and coins were traditionally used). The only rule was that the object be “whole and unbroken”, which could explain why there are to be no stones set into the metal. Gold is preferred; in Judaism, gold is symbolic of the glory of God, so in a ceremony or ritual as important as marriage, it is a way to represent monogamy and sexual intimacy within the bond of God – that there is a religious or divine promise the wife makes to her husband. As for the right index finger, it seems that Rabbi had the same belief in the “vena amoris” as many Westerners had, but it could also be because the index finger is more frequently used (as it is the pointer finger), and therefore the ring/symbol of their marriage is more prevalent. Additionally, in Jewish and Roman tradition, the right hand is used to perform oaths.

Lamm, Maurice. “The Marriage Ring in Judaism.” Chabad.org. Chabad-Lubavitch Media Center. Accessed May 3, 2021. https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/481776/jewish/The-Marriage-Ring-in-Judaism.htm. 

Armenian Foodway – Salt Biscuits

(This conversation took place in Armenian)

Main Piece

My informant described a traditional game that is very popular amongst the single youngsters in Armenia. On January 29 (the eve of the 30th), Armenians celebrate Saint Sarkis, or Սուրբ Սարգիս (pronounced “Surb Sarkis”), who was a military martyr. On the day before the celebration, single youngsters make and eat a very salty type of cookie, called Aghablit (Աղաբլիթ) and avoid water before going to bed. It is said that their future husband or wife will bring them water in their dream to relieve them of the extreme saltiness of the cracker. In the morning, they share their dreams with each other and see who “wins” the game, as in, who saw the most attractive and eligible people in their dreams.

Context

This tradition is performed every year on the eve of Surb Sarkis, which is January 29. This a casual event meant to entertain adults and forecast the future of youngsters. The results of this tradition are not to be taken seriously, but to entertain possibilities of the future. 

Background

My informant learned about this tradition from her classmates, who were all excited to meet their future spouse in their dreams. My informant explained that this tradition emphasized the importance of getting married and creating a family. She concluded that, because it is practiced by both boys and girls and is not limited to one gender, it is telling of the societal expectations for youngsters. Men and women were expected to prioritize getting married and building a family above all else. This tradition was specifically performed only on the day of Surb Sarkis. 

My Thoughts

This tradition emphasizes the importance of building a family. Armenians are very family-oriented, and it is important for parents to instill the same family values in their children. This salt biscuit tradition helps youngsters look to the future to build a family of their own. 

This tradition also assumes that the primary purpose of dreams is to show one’s deepest desires. This purpose is in line with Sigmund Freud’s definition of dreams, in which he explains that dreams show us what we wish to accomplish in our lives. Of course, this is not a scientifically proven method for finding your future spouse, but it is an entertaining tradition to participate in.

Sweeping Over Feet

BACKGROUND: My informant, OR, was born in the US. Her parents are both immigrants from Grenada. OR often talks about how superstitious her Caribbean family is and this piece is one example out of our long conversation about how her family’s beliefs dominate how they behave. 

CONTEXT: This piece is from a conversation with my friend to discuss the role of superstition in Caribbean culture. 

OR: This other one actually happened the other day. I was sweeping the floor of um, the living room and my mom was sitting on the couch and I accidentally swept over her feet. Like, my family believes that if you sweep over someone’s feet then they’ll never get married. So my mom got really mad at me and said that she’ll never marry —

Me: (laughs) Isn’t your mom married? Like what happened to your dad?

OR: I guess if something happened to my dad (laughs) I guess she would have no plan b.

THOUGHTS: The thing that is the most interesting to me about this superstition is the fact that despite being exempt from the superstition, OR’s mom still abided by it. With nothing to fear from the superstition, having already been married, it gives off the impression that OR’s mom is superstitious just to be superstitious. Or rather that superstition is so ingrained in Caribbean culture that the preservation of its importance is more significant than the meaning itself.