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Aida Kattan (3): the Palestinian wedding in the Bethlehem area

Contributed by Spirit Of Sumud Tourism Program on 28.08.2009:

Aida Kattan is a teacher from Beit Jala

I want to speak about the customs and traditions here in this region when somebody gets engaged or married, especially among Christians.

Tulbeh [asking the hand] and its preparation

It is not possible that the young man just goes to the bride or her parents for asking her hand. It is necessary that first the ladies of the man’s family, the aunt, mother, sister and so on, go in the morning to the mother of the bride, with the bride present. They sit with the mother of the bride, and they look at the bride. They want to see if there is something special with the bride. She should not wear make up, but should come directly from her sleep. They want to see her naturally, her body, how she is in the house. They look critically at her. Then they go back to the house and tell that everything is OK.

After that the men may come to the parents of the bride to ask for her hand (Tulbeh).

Kasweh and Khutbeh

After two or three days is the khutbeh, the engagement. Immediately before the khutbeh is the kasweh. The groom is going to bring his gifts for the bride, especially gold, clothes, shoes. The parents of the bride and the groom are visiting the bride and the groom. It is in a happy and pleasant atmosphere. The Khutbeh itself is a family gathering at home with the priest present, who confirms the engagement. Then afterwards is a joyous party.

Sahra, the sleepless night

Four or five days before the wedding is the sahra, when people stay the night with the groom. At the groom’s house all his friends, neighbors and relatives come. They should have prepared the food. The whole day they make maza [salads] – a lot of different things they drink and eat. It starts eight or nine o’clock in the evening until twelve or two in the night. Sahra means to stay sleepless. This could even go on for several nights.

The trousseau

It was custom to bring all the presents bought for the house, even the washing machine – together called ‘Ard al Jihaaz, the trousseau – two days before the wedding to the house of the groom. Then there is also a party. It is then required from the family of the groom to have the house nicely in order, and to present something to the guests. How much was bought for the trousseau depended upon whether the family was rich or poor.

Hammaam [bath]

On the Friday or the Saturday before the wedding the bride and groom and their family and friends go to the hammaam. The people do not work during the day.

Wedding: after the church a walk to the groom’s house

The wedding starts at 2 or 3 in the afternoon. After the church, they all go to the house of the groom. The families of both the bride and the groom go for the wedding meal. They used to go from the church to the groom’s house all the way singing. Or they danced turning swords in front of the couple, and made trills. Now they do it by taking the car. In the past they did it by walking and every ten meters, the women made trills. They were spending one or two hours on the way before they reached the groom’s house. They stopped after every ten meter, or every five minutes, and then sang, and they used to break bottles of arak [alcohol with the taste of anis], while dancing with the swords, out of happiness. They wore special tweed suits. And sweets were thrown. Or salt. In Lebanon they throw rice. The kids used to pick the chocolates from the ground and eat them.

Wedding meal

At the groom’s family house the men cook mansaf [large meal with sheep]. It should be cooked in the suitable way. They should cook using large pans for 100 or 150 persons, with rice and yoghurt added. The adult men and women know how to make manzaf. It is very costly, two or three sheep are costly. All those present should eat at the wedding, maybe 50, 80 or 100 people. All those who eat should bring a present or give money in an envelop.

In the evening they make dinner, it is called the dinner of the families, a dinner for both families together.

After the wedding: Fraadeh

The week after the wedding is called mbarakeh – extending congratulations.

From the second day on the people come. If they did not yet give a present, they can do so in the week afterwards. They can give anything for the house, like glasses. On the Sunday after the wedding, people should visit the bride’s family, that’s called the Fraadeh or Khashit al-Dar. Then again presents are given to the parents of the bride. The family of the bride is cooking something special. The custom is from long ago but it is still practiced.

So you have the tulbe, the khutbeh, the urus [wedding], and then the fraadeh. Sometimes this all happens in two weeks. When the groom travels to the US or Canada, there is not much time. Then everything sometimes happens in just 10 days, the Tulbeh on Thursday, the wedding on Sunday.

Now the customs are less applied. Sometimes all the practices around the wedding are finished in just a few days!


December 2008

Interviewer: Toine van Teeffelen

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