Wedding Traditions

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It is difficult to hold on to traditions over time. Change in cultural traditions is inevitable. However, because traditions define a people at a given time and place, learning about them is both interesting and necessary. Since many Palestinian traditions may not be practiced anymore, it is important to remember them and record them for posterity. I have always been interested in the traditions that are no longer practiced. For that reason, and because it is rather different than those of today, I am choosing to describe a Palestinian wedding from the 1940’s.

A wedding was a grand affair which was celebrated by the entire village. Even travelers and people from nearby villages were welcomed to the weddings. Everyone in the village knew that a wedding was coming. The family of the groom would go from house to house to personally invite guests with an offering of “makhloota”, a mixture of nuts and seeds. In traditional Palestinian weddings, it is the groom’s family who pays for and arranges the entire ceremony. For days and up to a week before the wedding ceremony, family and friends gather night after night for a “sahra”; a night of singing and dancing.

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Usually taking place in a large empty field and providing plenty of space for lots of people to gather, the sahra is just as festive as the wedding ceremony itself. It was usually only the men who danced el debka while the women sang. The night before the wedding is the henna party. The bride and all the women gather for dancing, sweets, and the painting of henna on their hands. Henna painting prior to a wedding is an ancient tradition which is sometimes still practiced today. On the day of the wedding ceremony, the women of the groom’s family are very busy preparing a large amount of food for the large gathering that is to come.

The main Arabic dish was “asida”; cracked wheat cooked like rice, which is covered with a layer of rice and large pieces of lamb. This is served in abundance as several trays of it will be prepared. Perhaps the most showy part of the ceremony is when the groom is seated on a horse and paraded through the village for all to see. Wearing the traditional dress of a “kafiyeh”, the Palestinian black and white head cloth and an ornate white “abaya” cloak with gold trimming, he rides a horse dressed in a fancy saddle. As the groom rides throughout the village, his family follows singing, clapping and displaying their happiness.

By late afternoon, the groom and party return to the groom’s family’s home and dinner is served. In the meantime, the bride and her family have been awaiting her departure for the house of the groom. The groom’s family has already sent dinner to the bride’s family at their home and following that, the bride makes her way to join the groom. Like the groom, she is also seated on a horse and escorted and followed by her family. She wears the traditional Palestinian dress called the “thobe” which is a long dress with long sleeves. However on this occasion her thobe has angular sleeves and fancy gold, silver or red embroidery.

On her way to the groom’s home, neighbors and people of the village stop her to offer her gifts. Upon her arrival to the groom’s home, she is seated in a room on a chair that is usually elevated on a platform. The groom joins her and is seated at her side. The families of the groom and of the bride then celebrate together, dancing into the late night hours. In a traditional Palestinian wedding, there is no exchange of rings. At the end of the night, a scarf is placed on the bride’s lap and guests place gifts of money or gold in the scarf as they wish them happiness and prosperity.

Wedding ceremonies are one of the best ways to observe the traditions of a people. Today, in that same West Bank village, this sort of ceremony is no longer practiced as only some of the traditions still remain. Ceremonies today are instead a combination of the Palestinian-American wedding and the traditional wedding. Remembering these, and other traditions, is important to our understanding of us and in defining ourselves as a cultural group. As the saying goes, it is important to remember where you came from in order to know where you are going.

There are many special facets to Mexican-American weddings. And the parties that often follow show how celebrated the bond of marriage is in Mexican-American culture. A number of the unique rituals performed at the wedding ceremony and the receptions are rooted in tradition, as these events have probably been the least permeated by American culture. Like in any culture, the cost of the wedding is a primary concern (as previously mentioned, this reality sometimes tempts couples to elope). According to Mexican tradition, the groom and his family assume the cost of the wedding.

In contrast, American tradition dictates that the bride’s family pay. Therefore modern Mexican-American weddings often combine these traditions, with the result that both families help with all the expenses. Many couples seek out godparents, or padrinos, for help with their wedding. Padrinos also complete various tasks such as setting up the church and providing various tokens and gifts that are used in the ceremony. Padrinos are carefully selected, as it is “not a relationship to be entered into lightly; intended godparents must be worthy of responsibility and deep respect” .

To those not familiar with the padrino system, it may seem unusual. “To non-Spanish speakers the terms…become confusing when compadres [godfathers] and comadres [godmothers] also play a role in marriage and the extended family structure. It does not make sense to them that so many people are involved”. A Mexican-American couple could have up to 80 individuals (40 couples) acting as padrinos. Essentially, the padrino system is beneficial for two reasons: it spreads out the financial burden associated with a wedding and it allows non-relatives to be accepted into the family circle.

In Mexican culture, families (including the nuclear family, grandparents, aunt, uncles, and cousins) are very exclusive groups. The family does not readily accept non-relatives, but by making that individual a padrino, they are, in effect, part of the family. One of the most noted traditions at the actual wedding is the “lazo” ceremony. The lazo (also called a lasso) is formed by two rosaries that are joined together with a cross. Lazos can be simple and made of wooden beads, intricate and made of exquisite crystal, or somewhere in between.

It all depends on the couple. During the ceremony the priest and a special set of padrinos, the padrinos de lazo, place the figure-8 shaped lazo around the couple. “Placing the lazo around the couple signifies that the couple is united as one. The traditional belief behind the lazo is that, if the couple prays to the rosary together every night, their marriage will endure”. The lazo is worn by the couple through the remainder of the service and is removed by the padrinos de lazo or the priest at the end of the ceremony.

The couple may also have special kneeling pillows, or “cojines”, to use during the wedding as in American culture, a reception generally follows the wedding ceremony. The type of reception is dependent upon the financial resources available to the couple. “The lavishness of the celebration differs according to class. Lower-class marriages are customarily celebrated with an outdoor barbecue and beer party. Wedding celebrations among the elite sometimes fill the ballrooms of the largest hotels where champagne and imported French delicacies are served in addition to a towering wedding cake”

Mexican-American wedding receptions typically have dancing. One particular dance, the dollar dance, involves having guests pin paper money to the bride or groom in exchange for a dance. This custom is a Mexican one, though it is now commonly seen in American weddings, as well. A Mexican-American reception may also have a mariachi band. A mariachi band is a “strolling band of musicians” made up of trumpets, violins, a vihuela, a guitar and a guitarron (the bass guitar). Mexican-American weddings are fairly similar to American weddings.

Yet it seems that there are some important differences that have allowed for the retention of several important Mexican traditions, such as the lazo and the mariachis. Additionally, the fact that many of the family members (including extended family and padrinos), as well as numerous friends, participate in the planning, funding, and preparation clearly sets Mexican-American weddings apart from American ones. Traditionally, Mexican-American marriages are a celebrated joining of two families. And, traditionally, the resulting husband-wife relationship is accompanied by the traditional husband-wife roles.

This is not to say that that is no longer the case, but there are contemporary issues that affect marriages in new ways, such as changing views on religion, changing gender roles, divorce, and Americanization. While Mexican-Americans are largely Roman Catholic, the role of religion is ambiguous in regards to marriage (Oropesa, Lichter, & Anderson, 893). The commonly accepted belief is that Catholics marry with greater frequency; however, “Catholics are not more likely to marry than their non-Catholic counterparts” (Oropesa, Lichter, & Anderson, 893).

Some Mexican-Americans have experienced an “inability to conform to church doctrine” that has caused them to leave the Church altogether. It is worth noting that, if a woman is lesbian, “she is punished, even victimized,” as the Catholic Church “declares that homosexuals go to hell when they die” (Blea [1], 64)). Upon entering into marriage, some women now prefer a “companionate marriage” rather than a traditional one because they feel it gives them pleasure, closeness, power, and marital security (Hirsch, 1339).

This “traditional” style of marriage tends to be equated with the idea of machismo – “the maintenance of the male’s dignity and respect, or honor” (Lisansky, 206). Machismo dictates that marriage roles follow a certain pattern: the man must prove his manliness by drinking and “extra-marital conquests” while the woman stays at home and concerns herself with being a good wife and mother (Miller, 11-12). It seems that both men and women prefer to move away from this type of marriage. In her study, Hirsch said that the men she interviewed often insisted that they were “not macho like their fathers” (Hirsch, 1338).

A study by Negy and Snyder supported this notion, finding that Mexican-American and white couples had equivalent scores in regards to marital and parental roles and “rebutting stereotypic depictions of Mexican-American couples as extreme on dimensions of traditionalism and patriarchy” (419). But regardless of what end of the spectrum a Mexican-American marriage is situated on, they are generally not extremely stable – “divorce and desertion rates are roughly equivalent to those of the Anglo population” (Miller, 28).

Negy and Snyder also found that married Mexican-American couples scored high on overall dissatisfaction, which they speculated might be caused by “increased stress with pressures to redefine their marital roles…as they restructure their relationships toward contemporary standards” (419). Furthermore, Mexican-Americans marry at younger ages than whites do (Oropesa, Lichter, & Anderson, 890); it is possible that this practice also causes conflict in regards to Americanization.

The making of a Mexican-American tradition involves an interesting mix of give and take between the two cultures. As individuals become more “Americanized,” they tend to adopt American traditions – traditions that are generally much different from Mexican ones. Many factors can lead to Americanization, a process that creates an extremely fascinating dichotomy. In “Ceremony for a Chicano-community Wedding,” poet Leland Mellott calls Mexican-American weddings cultural events that are “unrepeatable and thus incapable of forming [their]…own tradition” (Lobos & Mellott, 98). Michael V.

Miller echoes this sentiment in “Variations in Mexican-American Life: A Review Sythesis”: “Although commonly depicted as an undifferentiated rural population given to a “traditional” way of life, Mexican-Americans…are a diverse and heterogeneous population characterized by important internal differences” (4). While the very nature of describing similarities and traditions tends to generalize a culture, it is important to remember that differences are what give a culture its depth, texture, and vibrancy, things that Mexican-American culture certainly embodies The elderly woman consoled her son by saying, “You’re not alone, son.

I am here. ” The audience roared with laughter. The sequence of events and that particular remark left little doubt in the minds of the audience that the older woman was the cause of the young couple’s quarrel. The mother was committing the worst of follies because she did not have sense enough to stay away, especially after the trouble had flared into the open. A Chinese audience would have found hardly anything amusing in these events from the movie. They would have seen the younger woman, and not the older one, as the culprit.

A man’s tie with his partents customarily has priority over the marital bond. Only a bad woman would leave her husband because of a conflict between these two responsibilities. Given this framework, the mother who consoled her son was doing nothing out of order. The Chinese wife is, in the first place, selected by her husband’s parents to become an additional member of a home which is founded on solidarity between her husband and his parents. The typical American wife, on the other hand, would never consider occupying a subsidiary position.

She has claim not only to the bulk of her husband’s earnings, but also, after business hours, to his undivided attention, as well. Parents-in-law are useful in an emergency, but the connection between the older couple and the younger one is a matter of friendship rather than kinship. Chinese marital adjustment, instead of being exclusively a matter between a man and his wife, is very much the parent’s business. In fact, some Chinese parents not only participate in quarrels between their sons and daughters-in-law, but it is not at all unusual for them to openly force a showdown between the younger couple.

Most Chinese wives entertain the impression, usually with good reason, that their parents-in-law favor their husbands in any marital dispute. In self-defense, or if they really feel aggrieved, they often call in their own parents from another village. And not infrequently, what begins as a minor ripple between the spouses soon develops into a battle royal between the two sets of parents-in-law, each reinforced by their other children. In this situation, the husband and wife usually are divided by the battle line of the two sets of relatives.

No American parents would dare to interfere to such an extent. Even if they have strong feeling about their children’s marital difficulties, they are obliged to do their manipulating behind the scenes. In fact, most family counselors do not hesitate to advise parents to keep out of their youngsters’ affairs, difficulties of no difficulties. “How can you cope with meddling in-laws? ” asked a marital counselor in a big daily newspaper, and he continued: The answer to the problem of meddling in-laws usually lies within the couples themselves.

If they show that they will brook no interference, they will usually get none. But they must present a united front. Each partner must come first with the other. Where either is made unhappy through in-law interference, first consideration should be given the partner rather than the parent. These differences express something fundamental. To the Chinese, a man’s relationship with his parents in permanent. It is so central and so important that all other individual relationships are overshadowed by or subordinated to it. American relationships are individually determined.

The emphasis on martial happiness in America and the relative lack of attention to it in China is, therefore, another distinction between the two peoples. References: 1. (1996 – 2007). Chinese Wedding Traditions. Retrieved October 4, 2009, from Chinese Historical and Cultural Project Web site: http://www. chcp. org/wedding. html 2. Kaestner, J (1995 – 2008). A Traditional Indian Wedding. Retrieved October 4, 2009, from Weddings by Recommendation Only Web site: http://www. byreconly. com/magazine/celebrations/indian_01. htm 3. 1999). African Weddings Traditions and Marriages. Retrieved October 4, 2009, from African Weddings Web site: http://www. eng. umu. se/vw/Culture/African%20weddings. htm 4. Philippine Traditional Weddings. Retrieved October 4, 2009, from World Wedding Traditions Web site: http://www. worldweddingtraditions. com/locations/pacific_island_traditions/filipino_traditions. html 5. Traditional Japanese Weddings. Retrieved October 4, 2009, from Traditional Japanese Weddings Web site: http://www. hudsonvalleyweddings. com/guide/japanese. htm

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Wedding Traditions. (2018, Feb 27). Retrieved from

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