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The meal during occasions

Contributed by Toine Van Teeffelen on 18.02.2006:

Engagements and weddings used to be celebrated at home. The groom’s family prepared the meal and the visitors played music and danced on the street. During the Intifada the engagements and weddings were celebrated in a much more sober way to honour those who had died or were imprisoned. Meals were kept simple without music or dancing and the costs were kept low.

Nowadays some people look back with nostalgia. After the Intifada when people returned to “normal life” (not really normal, with all the economic and political problems), weddings and engagement parties increasingly started to become more elaborate. Some people spend a lot on limousines, flowers and music groups. Parties move from the bridegroom’s home to large restaurants. Many Moslems celebrate a wedding for two days, the day before the ceremony and the day itself. Before the ceremony, relatives and friends gather at the bridgroom’s house to eat mansaff (rice with meat and yoghurt). Afterwards, they go to a restaurant where sweets and non-alcoholic drinks are offered.

Christian Palestinians also tend to celebrate their parties at hotels or restaurants. After the ceremony, relatives anf friends go to a big hall where a band or discjockey waits. Since the Christians do not eat before the ceremony, the main meal is served at the party. Usually there are salads (mezze) and drinks as starters. After this dinner is served. Originally it was custom to serve rice with lamb meat, but nowadays the restaurants take care of the dinner and introduce more foreign, European dishes: carrots and green pies, beans, rice, steak and chicken. At Christian weddings alcohol is served. Those who can afford serve champagne. After the meal the wedding cake is cut, usually a creamy Western-style cake instead of the kanafeh from the old days. When the cake is cut, visitors know that the party will soon be over.

Especially older people are not happy with the new style of celebration. They prefer the traditional cosier and less expensive weddings at home. Young people, on the other hand, are usually happy to go to a hotel and leave the hassle of preparing food and drinks to others. At traditional weddings the family was busy cooking and serving the time-consuming Arabic meals. Today bride and groom enjoy their own party much more.

From: “Sahteen: Discover the Palestinian Culture by Eating”, published by the Freres School, Bethlehem, part of the Culture and Palestine series issued by the Arab Educational Institute-Open Windows, Bethlehem, 1999. To order the book, send a mail to

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