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Wedding Traditions in Afghanistan
Why Am I Writing this!
Living a major portion of my life as a refugee I have been watching different cultures, I found out that Afghan culture is quite different and enriched. It has familiarity with Eastern and Western cultures but retains its own special identity which unfortunately is not known much. I decided to write about the wedding traditions which is a symbolic celebration of every culture.
Afghan culture in itself is very formal and filled with a lot of protocol even in routine life. Hospitality is a cultural norm and a symbol of prestige in afghan societies. The respectable families are known by their hospitality, decorum and etiquette in everyday life. The weddings carry all these features making them Afghan's conventional life's and culture's representative celebration.
The weddings start with proposal which had to be from the boy side in conventional Afghan families.
When the girl and her family approves the proposal, they give "Dismal" and "Khimcha" to the groom's family as a statement of yes. This occasion where the girl's family show their willingness and say yes to the proposal is called as "Shirini" in local language. The wordy meaning of Shirini is sweets. Dismal is taken mostly by the elders of the groom's family.
Dismal is a peace of decorated cloth that signifies the arrival of the new member in the family.
Khimcha is a tray filled with sweets and toffees, decorated with flowers and ribbons. The sweets in the Khimcha is distributed to all the family members to let the people know that the bond has been made. After the "Shirini" (sweets) are distributed the girl then becomes the honor of the boy's family. In most of the traditional families after this distribution then there is no choice to back off of the relation; as it is a matter of the honor for the families. Especially in Pathan families where honor is a matter of life and death. This may be the reason that it could take months or even years for the girl's family to show willingness, before giving the "Shirini, Keeping the guy pending by neither accepting nor rejecting the proposal, in order to search on all aspects of the family they are going to be linked to.
After accepting the proposal then at each special day or occasion the girl receives her gifts and her part from her fiance's family like receiving
- Iftari, that is mostly having the feast delivered to the girl's family, received in the month of Ramadhan as a tradition.
- Eidi, given on both Eids of the year, which include money, special traditional cuisines as well as dresses and other gifts.
- Nowrozi, which is the new year celebration; The girl gets her gifts along with sweets and special seasonal and traditional cuisines.
- Barati, The girl receives Barati on a night especially known in the Islamic calender for the night of lights.
The gifts are mostly either money or clothes, sweets and cuisines.The food items in most of these occasions are distributed by the girl's family to all the nearby relatives. Each time the an small event is celebrated with special traditional music of tambourine played by the women and girls with special traditional songs sung by them as well as the normal afghan songs which are played and danced for.
Expenses of the Wedding and Dowry
The concept of the wedding in Afghan culture is see like a favor by the girl for leaving her home to make the groom's life. This is the reason that in Afghan weddings, you will mostly find the girls side to be more in a demanding position than the guy.
Unlike many other cultures Afghan society holds the male responsible for all the expenses of the wedding. Starting from the proposal and engagement, Hena night, wedding night and Takhtjami all the occasions are celebrated and organized by the groom and his family.
Hena Night is known more to be the girls and women's party where the bride's hands are colored with hena by seven maiden girls of groom's family.
Takhjami is a celebration after the wedding where the guests give gifts, greet and bless the couple for starting their new life. It is held after a week passed of the wedding and is thought to be the time when the girl becomes an actual family member and no more a guest.
For dowry, the bride brings with her all that she may need for herself and not more than that. Unlike other eastern cultures where the girl must pay a large sum of money and do all the furniture and setting of her house by herself as a requirement of the dowry, Afghan brides gets their clothes, some home accessories, set of bed-sheet and some other small necessities to start her new life while all the other settings are to be done by the groom and his family.
In some regions the bride family even demands a large sum of money from the groom, known as "Walwar" to buy her all that she may need in her new house as she may need more than what the groom family is giving her.
Afghan weddings take more than four to five hours or even more than that because there have to be performed many traditions.
The guests are welcomed by the girls on the front way of the hall waiting for them to greet these guests as they enter.
The guests arrives before the bride and groom like normal weddings but the bride and groom come with special protocol of special songs and flowers spread on their way. They have to move slowly with the songs to the stage where they would stand for a while to welcome the guests.
At their first appearance in the hall the bride wear the green dress which is the traditional Afghan bride dress color. This color is worn for the time of "Nikah" as it signifies purity and happiness for the new life of the couple. After an hour or so the bride and groom leaves the hall and the dinner is served to the guests.
Nikah is carried out before the dinner is served. After the couple is tied in the pure bond of nikah, the groom goes to the hall and meets all the guests, greets them and welcomes them to the wedding.
After the dinner the bride and groom returns back to the hall, this time the bride with a white dress. The guests are served with tea after which the bride and groom cuts their big wedding cake to be served to the guests.
Here the bride and groom gets the first sip and first bite of the drink and cake from their life partner. All the gold and other jewelry made for the bride is shown off on the stage. The bride and groom is covered in a "shawl" where they recite some verses from the Holy Quran and see the faces of their life partner in a mirror. This tradition is known as "Aaina Musaf" which though is getting more outdated since nowadays unlike the old times the bride and groom would have met and seen each other a;ready yet the traditions remained till this time.
The traditional music and dances starts from the time the grooms family enters the hall. The happiness of the groom's side is more than the bride's, showing the grief along with the celebrations, of losing a member. Although nowadays a lot of trends have changed and even the bride side takes equal part in the celebrations of the wedding.
The weddings ends with special ending song and furrows and tears on the bride's and her family's faces.
At the end the brother or father of the bride ties a green clothe like a belt around the girl's waist. The tradition signifies a message from the brother to get prepared for her new life. Some of the members do accompany the bride to her new house to fulfill the remaining traditions.
After the bride comes to her new home the session of partying and dancing do not ends and again the bride is welcomed to her own new home with tambourine and Afghan wedding songs. The celebrations prevails till many days of the wedding.
The next morning the bride's family brings her her first breakfast at her new home, although nowadays it is mostly lunch, the trend is known as "Nashtaye" which contains all the delicious Afghan cuisines.
Afghan people are mostly in love with the concept of extravagance on their special days. Nowadays the wedding do not follow just one or two meals but sometimes the guests are served with ice-creams, juices and snacks as well before and after the mealtime.
The girls from nearby relatives change two to three or even more dresses on the wedding night to show their joy and excitement on the occasion.
Almost all those party events which were used to be organized and celebrated at homes are now celebrated in hotels which have increased the wedding hotel business, making it one of the top profit earning businesses of Afghanistan.
Nikah is preferably done before the wedding to save time on the night for the remaining traditions on the weddings.
A green maxi of the Nikah and a white maxi of the wedding remains a must as a cultural color codes of the bride's dress but the special Afghani dress remains equally important in the bride's list of dresses to be worn on her special day. The tradition is that she may wear the afghani dress on hena night or she can make a green traditional afghani dress and wear on the wedding night for her nikah. Nowadays the party dresses have been influenced a lot from the neighboring countries as well as European culture. People who have returned back to their country after along time, have brought the colors and patterns of the new cultures with them, influencing afghan wedding trends and the wedding dresses to a great extent.