Friday, February 15, 2013

Ethnic and Rituals of Nationality or religious Origin

The Most Reverend Charles E. Million
This week I want to review the Ethnic Rituals or Rituals that are peculiar to particular nationalities or religions. There is a lot of nice symbolism in these rituals. If you like one of them we can adapt them nicely into your ceremony, even if you are not from that particular nationality or ethnic group. I have covered many rituals that I am familiar with. There are many more to be discovered on the "net."


Jumping the Broom

From the movie "Jumping the Boom"

An African-American tradition that has its roots in slavery times when slaves couldn't marry. Typically the family places the broom on the ground, and the bride and groom jump over it together. The broom can then decorate a place of honor in their home.

In ancient days, the broom was the first thing brought into the home of a newlywed couple after bread and salt, and it was used to sweep their path so as to symbolize the sweeping away of obstacles. Newly wedded couples would jump over the broom for luck, fortune, fertility of family and lands, and also to show that they would accept the ordinary domestic tasks of the house together. 

This ritual can be done during the ceremony or at the reception.

Native American

Indian Salt Ritual

 Indian weddings often include a salt ceremony, where the bride passes a handful of salt to her groom without spilling any. He then passes it back to her and the exchange is repeated three times. She then performs the salt exchange with all the members of the groom's family, symbolizing her blending in with her new family.


Arras Ritual

The Arras Ritual is prevalent in Hispanic ceremonies. In this ritual the mother of the Groom steps up during the ceremony and gives 13 coins (sometimes this is specified as gold coins....pretty expensive at today's gold prices) to the Groom who in turn gives the 13 coins to the Bride, signifying that he places all of his goods into her care. The ritual is a symbol of his trust and confidence in her as his partner in life. 

The coins represent fidelity and prosperity for the new couple. There are 13 coins to honor Jesus and his twelve disciples.

In another alternative to this ritual after the Groom gives the coins to the Bride she gives them back and then he gives her half in return.
This Hispanic Ritual is more common in Mexican and Filipino ceremonies. In this ritual a lasso or cord is placed, generally by relatives, on the shoulders (or around the wrists of couple) while we talk about the joining of the two on a shared path. Sometimes this lasso/cord is made up of rosaries which have been attached to each other.  

Veil Ritual 
In this ritual relatives place a veil over the couple pinned to the grooms right shoulder and the left side of the brides veil, covering both their heads. The veil symbolizes the faithful love that the couple has for each other.


A parade to the church led by musicians is a custom at Norwegian weddings. The custom of walking to the wedding is also a custom in some Italian weddings.

In some Italian weddings the Bride and Groom break a vase, trying to reduce it to as many pieces as possible, as the number of pieces represent the number of years the couple will be happily married.


Although Persia (Iran) is currently a predominately Muslim country, their wedding customs date back pre-Islam to Zoroastrian times. Where the presentation of the Bride is common in American weddings, in a Persian wedding both families present their children for the ceremony.
Persian Wedding Ritual Sofreh Aghd

Sofreh Aghd

During the ceremony, chairs are brought to the bride and groom by the best man and maid of honor and they sit facing the Sofreh Aghd (a banquet table set in front of a mirror.) A third chair is placed by the minister at the right side of the Sofreh Aghd and he sits. During the part of the ceremony a scarf is held over the heads of Bride and Groom.  The groom's mother grinds (Kalleh Ghand crystallized sugar ) over their heads during the readings, to sweeten the couple's life.

During the vows the bride is asked three times whether she takes the groom to be her husband. The first two times she says nothing and gifts are brought from the grooms family that she reviews before answering. It is only after she has been asked the third time that she responds.


 Bread, Wine and Coin 

In this ritual the minister first gives the bride bread. She takes a bite and hands it to the groom who also takes a bite. The first part of this ritual symbolizes the wish that the couple never goes hungry.

In the second part of the ritual the minister hands a chalice of wine to Bride . She takes a drink and passes the chalice to Groom, who also takes a drink. This is to symbolize the wish of all that the couple overcome the bitterness in life.

In the third part of the ritual the minister holds out a silver coin.  Bride and Groom hold a silver coin between their right hands together to symbolize that they be wealthy and never be in financial distress.

Groom puts silver coin into his pocket, as the ceremony proceeds.


Sake-Sharing Ceremony

Most Japanese also include a cultural sake-sharing tradition at the wedding, popularly called san-san-kudo -- san means "three," ku means "to deliver," and do means "nine." This ritual dates back to a time when sharing sake created a formal bond as strongly as a handshake did in Victorian times. Using three flat sake cups stacked atop one another, the bride and groom take three sips each from the cups. Then their parents also take sips (for a total of nine sips), cementing the bond between the families.


Near the beginning of the ceremony the Bride and Groom sign the marriage contract or Ketubah.
The wedding ceremony begins with a procession of the wedding party members. At the wedding site, both sets of parents escort the bride and groom down the aisle. The marriage ceremony is performed under a special canopy, called a huppah, which represents God's presence, shelter and protection. 

After exchanging wedding vows, seven marriage blessings are read. The groom then steps on a wine glass, to symbolize the fragility of human happiness, a hallmark of Jewish history. It is also traditional for the bride and groom to be alone together for a few moments immediately after the ceremony. This tradition, called yichud, originated so that the marriage could be consummated, but now it is observed as a lovely time to be together before the reception. There is rarely, therefore, a receiving line at a Jewish wedding. 

This is not a complete list of customs, there are many more to be found with some exploration. I haven't decided yet whether to continue next week with more ethnic traditions or to move on to other types of rituals.

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