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Marriage Customs Of Syrians

( Originally Published 1897 )

Among the Syrian Christians weddings usually take place on a Sunday. Friday is devoted to the ceremonies of the bath, and on Saturday all the neighbours come in to see the bride-elect, who is painted and gaily dressed, and to offer their congratulations. During the two previous days invitations to the wedding are conveyed to all friends—to the women by two women, and to the men by two men. Catholics attend the church, but Protestants are married in the bridegroom's house. The wedding day must be a trying ordeal for the bride ; she is placed on a chair, and her hands, being painted with henna, rest on a silk handkerchief spread out on her knees. Thus she must sit, arrayed in her gay wedding dress, for hours together in a room crowded to suffocation ; and it is not considered correct for her to open her eyes, even for a moment ! When, at last, the bridegroom sends for her, she starts off at once, accompanied by only two married women chosen by her mother. It is a sad day for the parents, who frequently display much real grief at parting with their child. The bridegroom sends two or three men and a number of women to fetch his bride ; should the distance to his-house be considerable, she rides to her new home. If, however, the house is in the same village, or town, the bride walks, very slowly and crying all the way, a woman at each side supporting her, for it is considered proper for a bride to show the greatest reluctance to enter the house.

As a rule the procession takes place after dark, and then the accompanying crowd carry lighted candles. A temporary altar is erected at the bridegroom's house, and a priest, or bishop, performs the ceremony. The congregation of spectators, holding lighted candles in their hands, do not hesitate to indulge in conversation nd even laughter during the service. Priest, bride, and bridegroom walk three times round the altar, and the crowns are placed three times on the heads of the man and woman. Everything is done " In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." The priest also blesses the bridal chamber. Feasting and rejoicing continue for several days. The old customs in Syria, as elsewhere, are rapidly changing ; and young men, instead of paying a sum of money to the parents, often seek in marriage some young lady who will bring them wealth.

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