Thursday, June 4, 2009

Wedding traditions

Living in another country isn't like a vacation (sometimes I wish it were) but it does allow us to peek into another culture in a way that a three-week European tour never could. A few weeks ago we attended a pre-wedding party, Polterabend, of one of Aaron's colleagues. This translates to noisy evening and also gave me insight into another word I've known since I accidentally saw the movie as a small child and was totally traumatized- Poltergeist means noisy ghost!

But back to the Polterabend. The tradition is that making noise the night before a wedding scares away the evil spirits. So the bride and groom host a party where all their friends bring old dishes/pottery and smash them on the driveway or patio. They have a saying that the shards bring luck. Once all the pottery has been smashed, the couple must work together to sweep it all up. Then the guests go and dump it out and scatter it around again. This is supposed to occur may times over the course of the evening. I'm not sure what the significance of this is except perhaps to help the couple develop their teamwork skills and get used to sharing the chore of cleaning up.

Another part of the tradition for the evening is to create some elaborate task or game that the couple must complete in order to receive their gifts. This seems to be the job of the colleagues. The week before the party several people from Atec got together and cut a giant wooden puzzle out in the shape of a heart, painted it and mounted it on another wooden board with several candle holders in it. On the night of the party, the couple had to do a task to earn the pieces of the puzzle, then assemble it to receive their present. She had to shave a man's leg, he had to paint a woman's fingernails, they had to bob for slices of fruit from a tub of water, etc. Interesting!

It seemed like there was a lot of responsibility in being a guest but for our efforts we were rewarded with a great cook-out, far too much alcohol and a fun evening! As far as I can tell, they do not have bridal showers here. Bachelor/bachelorette parties seem to be a concept imported from elsewhere so they are not all that common either. Another interesting thing about marriage is that there is complete separation of religious and legal ceremonies. Everyone must have a legal union in the town hall. If people want a church wedding they may of course do so but priests and ministers do not have the power to legally marry people. Different, huh?

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