In class we’re going to get married, Syrian-style! Syrian weddings are exuberant affairs full of dance, song, dance, fantastic food…and did we we mention dance…? As we learned above there are many cultures in Syria, each with its own extensive traditions
If you’re Muslim in Syria your wedding ceremony will begin with an engagement/ring ceremony called khetbeth during which you and your soon-to-be-spouse sign a ktab, a legal contract that is a promise to get married. The ktab mentions the maher, or “bride price,” which the groom pays. (Often that’s symbolic, though sometimes actual money changes hands.)
On the wedding day itself there are many festivities before the actual ceremony. The groom and bride separate, each going with their friends. While the groom’s friends are helping him get prepared they try to prick him with a pin on the knee, with the belief that if they do they’ll get married soon. Similarly, the bride’s friends pinch her or tread on her toes. When the groom is nearly ready for the ceremony his friends sing songs called “arada,” during which they lift him up on their shoulders and parade him around the room. See an example of a fun arada. And another….
Sometimes the groom, his friends or family set up a mock fight with swords and shields, usually hiring professionals who come wearing traditional breeches and Syrian headgear. When the bride and groom do come together they walk as a couple beneath two rows of men holding crossed swords, an ancient tradition meant to demonstrate the groom’s bravery in protecting his bride-to-be. Even after the ceremony wedding customs abound. For example, when the bride enters her new home she takes a handful of wheat dough and sticks it on the door before entering. If it sticks, the couple will have a long and happy life together.
Read about Syrian Muslim weddings on Freemarriage.com’s Syrian wedding page.
There are different traditions at Syrian Christian weddings. In most cases, partying begins the night before the wedding at a small “khyapta d khitna,” or “shower party for the groom,” to which the groom invites his closest relatives (and not the bride). After listening to some Assyrian Chaldean music the best man leads the groom to the bathroom where he takes his last shower before the wedding, after which everyone dances, drinks and eats
until the wee hours of morning.
On the wedding day the groom’s family goes to the bride’s house to accompany her to the church. When the time comes to leave for the church the groom’s family starts to sing.
A member of the family stands at the doorway and won’t let the bride leave until someone from the groom’s family pays the amount of money she’s asking (today, usually a symbolic amount).
After the ceremony at the church, the guests arrive at the banquet hall and wait for the bride and groom, each holding a “yalekhta,” a thin piece of see-through fabric decorated with fancy beads. Assyrian Christian/Chaldean weddings are massive events–inviting four hundred guests is not uncommon–and the sight of so many guests with yalekthas can be striking. In the room there is also a cane covered in white fabric and white pearls, used by
leader of the Assyrian Chaldean dance. Everyone cheers as the maid of honor, other friends and family members and finally the bride and groom enter. The cheering gets
louder and louder and everyone dances until the bride and groom reach their table.
Then, as one can imagine, everyone dances! And dances, and dances.
In class we’ll enjoy some of these Syrian Muslim and Christian wedding traditions, and then we’ll engage in one of the most important of all: we’ll dance!