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Aida Kattan (4): Henna brought on the bride

Contributed by Spirit Of Sumud Tourism Program on 28.08.2009:

Aida Kattan is a teacher from Beit Jala

Before the henna was put on the bride, the bride and the groom and their family and friends went to the hammaam, the Turkish bath.

I remember the hammaam Sitt [lady] Miriam in Jerusalem. It is long ago that the hammaam Sitt Miriam existed. Now it does not exist anymore. The men, alone, and the women, alone, came every day. On Saturday, the women, girls and small children used to come. They did not pay much. One or two kirsh per person. They brought clothes and towels and so on, and in front of the small children they bathed there, and then went back home. It was a kind of picnic. Remember that people did not use to have a bath at home nor had they hot and cold water, and so a hammaam was better. It was the fashion to go to the hammaam. There were more hammamaat but Sittna Mariam was famous. It was like a Turkish bath. In Jerusalem people lived together, Arabs, Moslems, Christians, Jews, Armenians, all together. And they shared life, they lived next to each other. They went to each other’s weddings, they admired each other’s brides.

It was well-known that the bride and the groom used to go to Sitt Miriam. The bride went the Saturday before the wedding to the hammaam for a party, together with relatives, sisters, and neighbors. Like what is called a “shower” party in the US. Many were very skillful in washing the hairs, which happened in a gay atmosphere.

After the bride’s return the groom went to the hammam with all his friends and so on, and he was shaved. The women did the trills and said that he should be protected by God.

After the bride and the groom came back from the hammaam, everybody shared in putting the henna on the bride. They first went to the house of the groom, and then to the house of the bride. Henna is something special and present in certain areas in Europe and America, and it is sent here. The women made measurements how much henna there should be in proportion to the water or the tea, to know how much dough should be used. With the light of a candle they then went to the house of the bride. When they arrived there, there might be 50 or 60 women and girls. They took pieces of henna on handkerchiefs. They distributed it to everybody. The bride put it on her arms and legs. When they went back home, the women put it on their own hands.

When it is put on the arm of the bride, it is necessary that it is done with pencils. Then the bride has to keep her arms unmoved from the evening dinner up until the morning. They cannot even drink. For instance, somebody says to the bride, come and do something, And then the bride says, “I cannot.” Then one may ask: “Is there henna on your arm?” Sometimes henna is used to dye the skin. Sometimes they put forms of flowers on the arm, and the henna takes on the form of a flower. The next day, the henna is removed. There are women who are specialized in making such decorations.

The next day at the wedding, when they were clapping, they all had henna on their arms. Why they do that? Why do people who come back from the Haj [pelgrim’s journey to Mecca] put henna on their hair and arms? Because it is a sign of happiness. Henna is for the joy.

Bethlehem

November 2008

Interviewer: Toine van Teeffelen

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