Weddings: Past and Present

About Eritrea - History & Culture

Expensive weddings’ season has been upon us for the past 30 days. My closet is extremely exhausted, and according to the administration’s office at work, I’ve officially used my annual break time. The funny part is it really didn’t feel like a break. Family and friends obligations to attend weddings had me trying to teleport from one side of the city to the other just in time to see the newly married cut their cake.

January kicks off the season filled with shrieks and cries from families of the newly engaged, as bank accounts wither from wedding expenses. Some are willing to acknowledge the coming onslaught of bridal bashing, but others are still in denial. But before they know it they welcome unnecessarily long procession of cars; that break a million and two traffic rules in just two days. Makeup Artists wake up in the middle of the night to begin with their task of making the bride beautiful in her wedding day.

 

It all starts when a boy meets a girl, or is it the other way around, not quite sure these days. Sometimes it is love at first sight, but often it is a cumulative average of daily situations and nightly hesitations. This is the 21st century.
In traditional Eritrea, however, it is the parents who decide on the marriage alliance between the two households.

One way or another, once the arrangement is made for the marriage to take place, no earthly power can alter it. The marriage usually takes place within a year unless something happens in between. The preparation begins quite ahead of time.

Every preparation calls for songs and dances by the womenfolk. Now it is time for kneading the dough to make the bread used in making Sewa. So let’s dance. Now is the time to brew the Sewa. So let’s dance. Now there is nothing much to do. So let’s dance just the same.

Okay, you can sing and dance your hearts contents. But, can’t you do it just for yourself. Why use the loudspeaker? If it were only on weekends one could learn to be patient. But starting the orgy ahead of time and with a blaring loudspeaker.

There are those who at their own peril run out of patience sometimes and feel like going to the site in question and tell them to stop the din. But they hesitate. For the women could take the intervention as an excuse to compose a song at the interrupter’s cost and start to dance. In our tradition, women don’t take much time to compose insulting songs.

Well, what can you do when people are overjoyous? We only live once and we get married once (the real one), and after that, we raise our children and a little while later and we join the dying generation, so let’s dance.

The women are happy. In fact, they are the happiest of the crowd. In a society where husbands do not take their spouses to night dances or to bars, the approach of a wedding feast is a good tiding for those who had spent their lives cooking, washing and looking after the baby. They dance the night away during the wedding feast before the helpless eyes of their tyrannical husbands.

The mother of the bride or of the bridegroom, depending on the das(Tent), is going around and inquiring about the mood of the people. Are they happy? Do they want more bread or drinks? Anything missing?

To do this small job, the mother is in her Sunday best, bedecked with jewels and her newly plaited hair shinning like silver strands.

Any family feast is a day of liberation for our mothers. O how sad they become once the ulu-lating and clamor that accompanies the wedding feast ceases and they have to return to the habitual household toil and drudgery. Wait until I have the youngest son married, sighs the mother.

Now the boy has become a man, a husband, a breadwinner. He will leave his mother and will be with his wife. And the girl has now become a woman and a wife with strict instructions to serve and please her husband.

The lucky lover will of course live happily ever after. As for those whose marital ship was ignored for one reason or another, they can also live happily ever after, separately.

Some marriages end up in comedy, others in tragedy. But they have to be celebrated whatever the result might be.

The month of Tiri (January) is traditionally consecrated for marriages and wedding feasts. A mating season par excellence. Count nine months after January or even February, and that’s, more often than not, when many celebrate their birthdays, namely September and October. So if you forget the birthday of your close friend or even your wife, choose these months (give or take a week) and check and confirm with a relative to buy your present. You won’t go wrong.

If it were not for the lent, wedding feasts would have rolled on the whole year through and there wouldn’t be any power to stop them.

Fast forward to the 21st century………………..

“It is the happiest day of my life” says the bridegroom. And this unchained happiness cost a lot to the bride-groom and the family alike. The poor have to borrow while the rich overdo it. Others who wake up every morning and exercise their brains tend to be done with all of it with a Sunday breakfast at a park, but those kind of people come far and between.

The modern bride-to-be asks the sun and the moon. That’s what the bride-groom in his moments of amorous ecstasy had promised her.

“You just name it, I will buy it,” he says.

“Honey, I will not go to church without a limousine,” warns the capricious bride.

Now it is reported that even village girls are asking for bands to play at their wedding feasts.

Some families prefer to organize the feast in very expensive restaurants. They pay astronomical fees to please their child or simply to show off to relatives and guests. But no amount of money or delicacy of food can ever save a marriage from breaking down.

I have seen a bride-groom putting his new bride literally on a pedestal and kissing her feet. People applauded, she wept with joy. Hardly had a year passed than the marriage screeched to a sudden halt. It was a kiss of betrayal as was manifested during the heated argument over alimony in the court.

But with all this fanfare and clamor, there is something that keeps the bride worrying all through the marriage ceremony and the subsequent feast.

“Darling” says the bride-to-be. “Was there someone else in your life?”

Trouble in Paradise!

On the other hand the singer who was hired to perform at the wedding is singing an inappropriate love song directed at the very bride. Apparently the hapless chap has only gone and fell in love with the bride. Love at first sight I guess. At least for him that is!

 

Last Updated (Saturday, 17 February 2018 02:20)