A huge fan of weddings, Radio Lajee’s Sabreen Asad explores some of the unique Palestinian traditions that make these special days such memorable occasions. Featuring recordings of folkloric songs used to celebrate the many different rituals accompanying the union, Sabreen’s story is a must for romantics and lovers of music alike.
[Music plays: featuring a small group of three Palestinian women singing.]
Sabreen: This is a traditional Palestinian wedding song. The day before the wedding is called ‘Al Henna”. On this day, the older generation of Palestinian women dance to it. It talks about marriage, happiness and new beginnings.
In the past, the Palestinian wedding was open to all people without invitation; because people living in the villages were close to each other. Most girls got married between the age of fifteen and twenty and the men got married between 20 and 25.
To marry, the groom must first ask permission from the ‘bride to be’s’ family.
Once the permission has been received, they discuss what money and gold the groom will provide to the bride. In Arabic this is called “a muher”.
[Music plays: featuring the sound of 1 Palestinian woman singing a kind of a Capella chant]
Sabreen: One day before the wedding the male friends and family of the groom would attend a ‘Saharah’ which would be held in the front garden of the groom’s family house. And the female friends and family of the bride attend ‘ al henna’ and celebrated inside the home of the bride’s family. The female family members painted their hands with henna.
Um Raed is a neighbour of mine. She’s old enough to remember what traditional Palestinian weddings are like.
[Sound of an older woman speaking in Arabic]
Um Raed Translation: The 2 families of the bride and the groom decide on a date for the wedding. Then, the groom’s family start to prepare an apartment or room for their son to live in. They prepare everything: They paint it, clean it, furnish it…
And then a week before the wedding, the bride’s family invites their friends and neighbours to celebrate with them every night in their home.
Usually people started celebrating a week from the wedding. This depended on the family’s financial situation and also, the weather. So, for example, they may celebrate for 2 to 3 days leading up to the big day…or sometimes for a full week.
Then, on the wedding day itself, the groom’s friends perform what we call in Arabic, “Al-Zaffeh.” This involves carrying the groom while they are in the middle of dancing and singing from his home all the way to the bride’s house. There, the bride’s family welcome the entourage at the entrance to the house, while the bride remains inside with her friends. Usually the bride’s father, eldest brother or uncle, escorts the bride to the entrance of the house to meet her groom. Then, the family makes the groom promise to take care of their daughter.
After that, the groom ushers the bride – nowadays into a car – but in the past they would lift the bride on to the back of a camel or horse. And then, the 2 families perform a second “Al-zaffeh” but this time for the happy couple, until they reach the groom’s house.
Sabreen: Then the groom would receive a lot of advice from his friends.
[Music plays: featuring the sounds of a group of men singing – the lyrics offer different pieces of advice to the groom]
Sabreen: Now, weddings are a little different but I’m happy that many of these traditions are still alive today.