Eritrean Cultural / Art: It’s no wonder why Eritreans for long have dubbed the month of January as ‘Tri Ebdi’, meaning crazy January. The name has its source from the wedding spree that characterizes this month.
This past weekend was the fourth since fasting ended on Christmas day and Asmarinos have been busy attending to weddings. Although no one knows for sure the reason why weddings usually take place in this months, the general explanation is that since farmers get enough crop after harvests (usually the winter season), they habitually prefer to have weddings after the harvest, hence the months of January–March, right before Lent sets in.
As much glorious occasions weddings are, they also tend to be among the wearisome yet unavoidable social obligations.
When I was much younger and barely heeded to social obligations like weddings and funerals, I used to wonder why my parents expressed annoyance about having to attend various weddings, sometimes several stacked in one day.
Now I know what that fuss was all about! Just this past Sunday I had to go to three weddings, all in the evening. Imagine the hassle!
Whenever I hear about the increased number of weddings my minds travels a few years back to a moment I witnessed at my cousins’ house. It was this time of year and my aunt was grumbling about the stack of invitation cards piled on the table. She was complaining not only of the number of weddings he had to go to but of the considerable amount of money that she had to spend as well. And she was only talking about one weekend only. She was also probably wondering of the many more weddings she would be going to the two or three months that followed.
Usually there are two types of wedding receptions: those where money is accepted as contribution to the family and the other type where you don’t have to pay anything. In the former, usually two people with a notebook sit at the entrance of the party tent and accept money from the guests, who after paying are led to their seats by a strict master of ceremonies.
In the second type, the wedding ceremonies usually take place in reception halls and most of the times involve a specific lunch or dinner banquet. But then there are those people who feel they should bring something to the feast and usually take a bottle of Areki, an aniseed based liquor.
I recall the invitation card of a wealthy businessperson to his daughter’s wedding clearly specifying that guests should not bring anything along. In spite of his abundance, I thought that it was a caring gesture, if not a showy one, on his part.
Meanwhile there is also the question of reckless spending. How many of these weddings are being held in a mild or prudent manner? And how many are lavishing extravagant receptions and long entourage of cars and limousines.
I know there are people with the opinion that weddings happen only once in a lifetime and no expense should be spared, but a little parsimony wouldn’t hurt.
To say that a large amount of money goes into such extravagant celebrations would only be stating the obvious. In the days leading to the grand event, the bride and groom’s respective households are engaged in countless preparations, at times accompanied by music bands, sending the expenditures even higher.
Starting from the dresses, jewelry, the rent and decoration of the reception hall and cars, the catering, the music band, the invitation cards… the list of expenditures goes on and on, rounding up to hundreds of thousands of Nakfa.
This has quite a significant toll in the economy of that family, unless of course it’s one of an immense wealth. The ‘economic crisis’ also befalls upon the guests, who are subjected to heavy spending on gifts for the newlyweds or money to be contributed.
And then when the big day comes, although it might differ from family to family, the wedding ceremony takes place in two days. The Saturday is devoted for the church ceremony and the entailing breakfast and photo shoots. Then comes Sunday when the official wedding reception takes place.
As my father always insists, money spent in extravagant weddings should have been used for the livelihood of the newlyweds or in some other useful things such as buying household items, etc, because people seem to care less for the couple once the wedding is over.
“What is the use of spending money on something that is going to last for few hours when you are making a vow to spend the rest of your life with someone and have nothing at your house to begin this new journey of life?” Winta Weldeyesus had posed that question in her article ‘What Matters More Marriage or Wedding?’ a couple of years ago.
Winta talks about the transformation of weddings, both in magnitude and kind, and elucidates with examples some of the wedding reforms in our culture. She also gave examples of what she called the ‘irksome glitches’ of wedding ceremonies. I couldn’t help but laugh at the mention of how some musicians use inappropriate songs at weddings.
What goes on in weddings, both the idyllic and irritating aspects, is another story for another time.