Weddings in Ethiopia are a colourful affair, thanks to the rich Ethiopian wedding traditions. Though many couples are opting to have modern weddings, several young people still pay respect to traditional customs by incorporating them into their wedding ceremonies.
Estimates indicate that two-thirds of people living in Ethiopia are Christians, and one-third are Muslims. There are also a few people in Ethiopia who are Jewish.
Many years ago, the old marriage custom in Ethiopia specified that men could only get married when they reach 30 years. This was inspired by the early ministry of Jesus Christ, which started when he was 30 years.
As dictated by the old Ethiopian traditions, the search for an ideal bride by the man’s family can kick-start as early as when he’s 18 years old. For Christians, it is expected that the lady keeps her virginity until she gets married. The family bears shame if she fails to do that.
Once the parents of a young man spot an ideal bride for their son, a mediator visits the parents of the identified lady to communicate the interest of the man’s family to them. If the lady’s parents accept the proposal, they come up with conditions and requirements that the family of the young man must make happen. The mediator returns to the parents of the man, communicates the conditions to them, and afterward fixes a date when the two families can meet.
Upon meeting, both parties come to a common ground and an engagement between the young individuals takes place, followed by the wedding date. The families of the man and the lady take full responsibility for the wedding in terms of food, drink, and other related needs.
The families do not wait until the day of the wedding before the festivities start. Festivities start several days before the date of the wedding and extend for several weeks, or months, and can sometimes last up to a year.
Although every ethnic group has its unique practices during a traditional wedding, here are the wedding activities that take place;
Ahead of the wedding, the bride spends time preparing herself for a week of wedding celebrations with beauty experts sent in to decorate her palms, feet, and fingernails with henna.
The Telosh is held two days ahead of the wedding where the groom and his family present gifts to the bride, usually a wedding gown or jewelry. The rest of the witnesses then give their gifts to the bride and dinner follows.
On the day when the groom goes to pick up the bride, everyone in her family goes outside the house and sings a song which indicates that no one will be let in. The groom then begs to be let in, and when the bride’s family finally agrees, he presents his bride with flowers. This she accepts with a kiss and is escorted by friends and relatives to the bridal car.
There’s an activity called “Knee kissing”. It is one of the more unusual Ethiopian wedding traditions where the couple at the wedding hall walks up to the elderly family members and expresses their gratitude and thanks to them by kissing their knees. In return, the grandparents give the couple their blessings followed by the parents.
As part of the ceremony on D-day, the “Kesherah”, a purity ceremony, is performed. A Kesherah is made of one or two cords painted white symbolizing the groom’s purity, and red symbolizing the bride’s virginity. It is placed at the groom’s feet by the Cahenet (Rabbi), who then pulls it up all the way to his head. The Cahenet then ties the Kesherah around the groom’s forehead, sealing their union.
Then comes the post-wedding celebration called “Meles”. This celebration holds the day after the wedding either in the evening or at night. The newlyweds dress up in a traditional outfit called the “Kaba”. During this event, the family goes through the traditional bread-cutting program. After this is done, the mother of the bride gives her daughter a nickname that everyone will use in memory of the wedding.
The Ethiopians have the tradition of holding a feast, three days after the wedding for friends and family who were not able to attend the wedding.
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