Thursday, May 14, 2015

Traditional Yemenite pre-wedding ceremony

The twin brother of my son-in-law is getting married next week, to a girl of Yemenite extraction. Unfortunately, the date clashes with the date of my conference (and 'lecture') in Florence, so we had to decline the invitation. We were able, however, to attend the traditional Yemenite pre-wedding ceremony, which is known as a 'hina' party (henna, in English).

As described at Wikipedia, in Israel, Mizrahi and Sephardic Jewish women sometimes choose to have a hennah party about a week before the wedding. The hennah party is smaller than the wedding, as only closer friends and family members are invited. The bride and groom wear traditional costumes as do some of the main guests. There is much dancing and music, especially when the hennah is brought out. The hennah is usually presented in a deep dish with lit candles in it and carried by the grandmother. She applies the hennah onto the palms of the bride and groom and they are blessed. Subsequently, guests stain their palms with hennah as well. There are variations in customs and dress between the different Jewish communities (Yemenite, Moroccan, Indian, etc.).

The evening was produced by a family of 'professional Yemenites' - apart from compering, singing and dancing, they also provide traditional costumes: obviously for the bride and groom, but also for anyone else who wishes to dress as a Yemenite. They also provide props, such as a well (from which water would be drawn if it were a real well), pots to carry the 'water', a wedding canopy and sundry other accessories.

The evening was very well produced and I did enjoy myself to a certain extent; at one stage, I was sufficiently moved to join in the dancing, between the groom and my son-in-law. I expect that this turned a few heads. Here is a picture of the bride and groom.

Unfortunately the evening was too long and far too loud. There were many people smoking inside the hall which gave me a stomach ache, which I still have. Maybe it's just as well that we're not going to the wedding as it will also be too long, too loud and too smoky.

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