Traditions from Asia

Different countries, different cultures

 

Today, we live in a multicultural world where all the cultures travel and get mixed. Hundreds of countries, thousands of cities, millions of people and we still sometimes feel like the world is a small village. How beautiful is that?

 

We want to share what we know and learn from others, widen our borders and get immerged in different perspectives of life and the world. Well, what better way to get to know another culture than through their weddings. This sacred day is important in every country and household, and it’s where we really see the real traditions of each region.

 

Let’s visit Asia, this beautiful place where the countries share the continent but where their traditions are as different one from another than they are compared to ours.

Indian Weddings:

India is a very large country in the south of Asia with over 1 billion people living in it. Of course, if there are so many people, there are many religions, cultures and traditions. That means that weddings are not always similar and that each region lives the occasion in their own way. However, there are some traditions that can be spotted in different parts of the country and that are a very important part of the wedding.

 

In India, family is very important, so a wedding is not just an alliance between two individuals, but an alliance between the families. Originally, it wasn’t even a matter of love but a family choice. Today, this still happens sometimes, but even in love stories, the man will have to ask for the family’s blessing. If they accept, the rituals and ceremonies can begin!

 

Here, a wedding is a big deal because it’s sacred and unbreakable. So it will be a multiday event, going from 2 to 7 days, and in some occasions, 12 days. And these weddings are always deeply rooted in tradition, even if sometimes they add some modern touches.

 

First, like in morocco, they do the Henna ceremony. The women get together and they celebrate the bride while she gets henna tattoos on her hands and feet. After she’s got all the drawings to grant her protection, they will put some Turmeric on her to purify her body and soul and scare the evil eye away. The groom also goes through the turmeric ceremony, even though he doesn’t get the pretty tattoos.

 

Then, the “Sangeet” can begin. It’s like a walk-in reception with a few family performances. Everyone dances, sings and celebrates the soon-to-be-married couple. A common dance in some regions is the “Garba”, where all the guests dance in a circle, making music with wooden sticks.

 

The next day, when everyone is still exhausted about all the dancing and the singing, they will all meet for a praying ceremony. Depending on how many days their festivities last, this could be the same day as the “Baraat”.

 

The “Baraat” is by far my favorite tradition. It reminds me a lot of one of the Lebanese traditions and it’s something fun and beautiful that can be easily reproduced in a French wedding. Here, the grooms’ side goes to meet the bride’s side in a very joyful and loud way. Typically led by guys with loud instruments and music, this ceremony is very colorful, energetic, musical and magical. Everyone meets and start dancing to the rhythm of the drums. Usually, the groom appears at the end of the “Baraat” either riding an Elephant (okay, this might be harder to do in the middle of Paris), a horse (getting easier) or a very nice car (well, more boring than the exotic animals but at least you’re sure you’ll find one). This celebration could take the whole day or be the opening of the actual wedding ceremony.

The “Thirumanam”, which is the official ceremony, finally takes place. Everybody is witness to the creation of a new couple and for a happy occasion like this, happy colors invade the space. Our typical black and white suites and grey dresses could get inspired from this Indian aesthetic. The bride will wear a beautiful red and golden Sari with golden jewels attached to it. The groom will usually wear a white and golden “Sherwani”, which looks like a royal coat.

 

Just like in our typical European weddings, the groom will enter first and wait for the bride. Sometimes, and don’t be surprised if this happens in an Indian wedding you’re attending, the groom’s shoes will be “stolen“ while he enters the ceremony and he will have to pay to get them back!  Once he’s wearing both his shoes and is standing straight, the bride will make her entrance. Here, the bride is not only accompanied by her father, but escorted by all the important man of her family. All around her you will see her brothers, her father and sometimes her uncles. And they walk her down the aisle, carrying her in many occasions, under a “Chaadar”, which is a sheet held on top of her head. It could be made of her mother’s wedding Sari, as a way to give her daughter her blessing and good wishes, or it could be a sheet of flowers to show that the bride was raised with love and affection.

 

The ceremony can now begin, and it will last a few hours. So many beautiful rituals will take place, creating an unbreakable bond between the bride and the groom, but also between their families. Depending on the regions, there can be different traditions. The list is never ending but some traditions are too beautiful not to mention, and very easy to include in a non-traditional, unconventional French wedding.

 

Sometimes they start with the “Jaimala”. They exchange colorful flower garlands, symbolizing their mutual acceptance towards each other and their marriage. This ritual is what marks a Hindu marriage and everything it symbolizes.

 

We can also witness the magical “Gath Bandham” ritual which will create an eternal connection uniting these two separate individuals, turning them into one. A scarf will be placed upon the groom and the bride, connecting his shoulders to her hips, and that way representing unity, fidelity and the promise of loving each other forever.

 

Still tight up by the scarf, they will turn 4 times around a fire. This is a symbol of the four goals in life:

  • Spiritual Salvation
  • Religious duty
  • Prosperity
  • Pleasure

 

The couple will also have to go through seven steps while reciting a prayer for each step, one for food, one for strength, one for wealth, one for joy, one for kids, one for livestock and finally one for devotion. Here, they will express their intentions and wishes towards each other, making this officially unbreakable and everlasting. The happy couple is married!!

 

But the ceremony is not over yet. The parents now have to bless them by throwing some water at them: they can now begin their lives together. Even though they are now declared man and wife, they may not kiss each other. This is definitely not something I will include in my french wedding!

 

Well, even if these traditions let us feel a bit closer to this culture, it’s still only a glimpse of what an Indian wedding actually looks like. They are grandiose events where all the colors in the world get mixed up with all the scents and smells we could ever imagine, and even more. Being part of Indian wedding feels like stepping into a different world where all your senses get shaken up.

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Japanese weddings:

Now, let us travel to East Asia, where we will discover a smaller country and completely different traditions. Even if they are both Asian, these two cultures could not be any more different one from the other. Both beautiful and special in their own way, Indian weddings could not be compared to Japanese weddings.

 

In japan, everything is more formal, more private, and we could even say more polite. Here, no one will steal the groom’s shoes, that’s for sure, and there will be many gifts exchanged along the day, starting at the engagement ceremony, where the two families will officially meet. This ceremony is maybe not very common now-a-days because there are not so many arranged marriages, but if it is held, both families will exchange special and meaningful gifts that represent positive hope for the marriage, wishes for the couple to grow old together, and wealth.

 

Once this formality is done, we can move on to the wedding ceremony. In japan, even though here too they have different religions, the majority of weddings are Shinto-style ceremonies, done by a Shinto priest in a Shire. Through the day, the couple will change outfits at least once, and the bride is expected to change her outfit after every step. But first, for the actual wedding ceremony, they both wear traditional Kimonos. The groom wears a montsuki, which is a black kimono, while the bride wears a “Shiro-muku”, a beautiful white kimono representing her purity, but especially the fact that she will become of her new family’s color. On her head she wears the equivalent of the veil, a “Wataboshi” that hides her face and that lays on  the “Tounokakoshi”, which is a kind of a hat that hides her “horns”, meaning that it blocks away her selfish feelings like pride or jealousy. Such a feminist touch, just like the veil’s original meaning!

 

During the ceremony, the couple will exchange the nuptial cups and symbolically exchange their vows. So the couple gets purified to drive away the evil spirits before they can exchange the nuptial cups, “San San Ku Do”. There are three different sized cups filled with sake. The bride and the groom have to take three sips from each cup. Then, their parents have to take three sips from each cup as a way of sealing the bond. The first three sips represent the three couples, the new one and the two that made it all possible. The second three sips represent the 3 flaws: hatred, passion and ignorance. Finally, the last three sips represent the freedom from these flaws.

Just like that, the families are bonded and a new happily married couple walks the streets. Now, it’s time for the reception. This means family and food. This also means the first wardrobe change. The bride is now dressed in a red, gold and black Kimono and she can enjoy with her husband and some guests a traditional Japanese meal in a small “Tatani”. After this small diner comes the actual reception where more guests are invited and where the bride is expected to change again.

In this reception the couple will be sitting on a small stage. Some guests will give speeches or sing, and then the bride and the groom will talk. The bride usually reads a letter she wrote to her family, telling them how much she loves and thanks them for everything they’ve done and given her. Many tears and laughs are shared in this very heartwarming moment. The groom will then also make a small speech to his parents, family and friends. This is a very beautiful tradition that brings a heartwarming touch to the wedding. A European wedding could easily include this tradition between the father/daughter dance and the cake.

Well, since in this reception there was no music or dancing, some guests will follow the bride and the groom to the PARTY! Here, everyone dances and has fun, congratulating the newlyweds while drinking. At the end of the celebration, just like at the end of the reception, the guests will go back home with gifts in their hands. But this doesn’t mean it’s over! When everyone is gone, the bride and groom are left alone with their closest friends with whom they will go to the after-party, have a little more fun, eat and drink until the morning. Japanese newlyweds do know how to enjoy their night!

 

The world seems a little smaller now that we can share some beautiful traditions, putting some French in the Middle East and some Asia in Europe. But there are so many countries with so many different traditions that it would be impossible to wrap it all up in a few articles. The only way to discover it all would be to actually travel a lot and get immerged in every single culture there is… I don’t really think that’s possible, but, who knows? Let’s make an international marriage!

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