Monday, December 4, 2017

Marriage propsals and their silly traditions

Monday, December 4, 2017
oldbearnews editor

Ahhhh where to begin with???  Neither of my boys shows any sign of having any sort of relationship let alone a steady one - so probably be safe here to spend a few thoughts on the subject.  I did have a few notions of using this as a speech at their wedding - I F that ever would come to fruition . . . . eventually even . . . .
anyhow - traditions - lets see . . .
As the song goes (Brenda Lee) "Lets jump over the Broomstick" it is an ancient custom in Africa - the prospective female fashions a broom from the twigs and timber harvested from where-ever and the male  builds the tiny hut where the future couple is meant to live - happily ever after - so to speak.  The girl will at some stage, rest the broomstick across the entrance door frame of the prospective groom and when the couple hold hands and literally jump across the leaning broomstick - the rest of the village "knew" that these two are now a couple and us such are "off-limits" from any other love-struck pursuing native.  Said broomstick then fulfills its purpose as a house-sweeping-cleaning-tool and oddly enough also as a tool to keep the perhaps not so suitable hubby "in line".  Being publicly flocked with "that" broomstick was a public humiliating scene.  Lastly - the reverse can happen as well - eg if both hold hands and jump OUT from the hut and over the broomstick, they were deemed to be separated and back on the "market"!
Well - so the story goes.  Seems there is no evidence that this actually took place in Africa - yet was common practice in USA during the slave years (for a variety of reasons.)  One story even has it as a custom from Wales (via Gypsies) as an established practice there!   It is however a tradition that many couples do theses days mostly in the USA as part of their wedding ceremony.

There are of course many many more ways to get to the point of asking or being married - free will or arranged.  In Japan there is the 'Miai' tradition along with all its rituals often culminating into a Tea-drinking ceremony - or was that in China??? It was also very common (and still happens in this day and age) for "arranged" marriages to take place - for various reasons.

In Old Europe - the term "hand in marriage" to signify engagement and future wedding/marriage was commonly used - and there exists a written record as far back as 1200's of having asked THE question.  The term itself was derived from the actual marriage ceremony where the Bride puts her hand on top of the groom and the priest of the time would waffle on about love and commitment and rules and whatnot.  Actually it was a little bit more symbolic then that.  The words " the bonds that tie us" were there for a reason, as follows: 
During the ceremony the priest often would use a lengthy piece of rope and physically tie both hands together  or better - her right hand to his left hand.  Later on in times past - during the wedding ceremony, the rope was dispensed with and the priest would use part of his dress robes-cord to 'lay over' the couples hands - which then progressed to the priest's stoles - which progressed to Gold rings being used - often called the "Band of Gold that ties/binds us together" ! So to ask for a "hand in marriage" was really a statement of intent to "tie the knot"!
What a lot of people no longer understand, let alone know, is that the "actual tied knot" lasted 24 hours!! Seems cruel yet it full filled several important functions.
(one should try this at home at some stage!!) 

With Groom and Bride often still having been more or less strangers to each other - it served to really emphasizing the notion that him and her are now a couple and as such "off limits" (again that term) to the rest of the public.
Further - it literally prevents any other male or female in "cutting in" during the dance that often would follow - thus re-enforcing the 'off-limits' notion! (you should try and do a three-some dance - it just does not work!) Then there are the practicalities - such as eating - or the required teamwork just to get fed (which could be the reason why there is the tradition of the feeding each other pieces from the wedding cake - often turning into a laughable slapstick comedy (pie-in-your-face) action).  Decisions to be made could no longer be done in isolation off each other as you had the "ball and chain" attached to you! This in turn gave you a crash course in communication 101!! (you could not just duck out for a quick loo stop without your partner "knowing" - you had to take the partner with you . . . (the you know - I want to go over there and speak to - no I want go there first . . . .  )
Considerations for "other then yourself" - needed to be learned in a hurry as nothing focused these, while being physically tied together. Later on in the night - the urm "first night of the honeymoon", there could no longer be any shyness about being naked (in front of each other) and I am sure led to a some comical 'undressing' and celebration of the 'consummation'!
The 'bonds that tie us' were often kept, sometimes re-appropriated for other uses.  Sometimes I think that this practice would benefit most couples in our modern times and 'might' lead to less divorce rates - but - as they say - this is another story for another time!

So a "hand in marriage" progressed to the modern western ceremony of kneeling and proposing - along with THE engagement ring - which as shown above, harks back to the times of "tying the knot".
I find it odd that in some countries there is the practice that only one party actually wears a wedding ring - usually the woman.  Often wonder what kind of message this carries . . . .

It is still a common practice for the male (almost exclusively) to "pop the question"!  In Scotland and Ireland, 29 February in a leap year is said to be the one day when a woman can propose to her partner.  Finland has the same custom, with the addition that a man rejecting such a proposal was expected to buy his suitor enough cloth for a skirt as compensation.  As a monarch, Queen Victoria had to propose to Prince Albert.
However proposals by women have become more common in the English-speaking world in recent years, so jewelry companies have started to manufacture engagement rings for men.
In the United States, about 5% of proposals are made by women.  Younger people are less likely to approve of women proposing.  We got a very long way yet to go before we can say we are truly a equal opportunity society. 

In many cultures it is traditional for a man to ask permission from a woman's father, in private, before proposing to her, or if her father has already died and she is still young of a near relation of hers.
In earlier times it was common for fathers to refuse proposals from men whom they considered unsuitable as husbands for their daughters.   Which brings me to my own engagement - yes yours truly still had to ask the question from Grandad. Although to be fair  - it was POST-engagement - it was already a 'done deal', as far as we were concerned, the ring more or less already ordered!!! Still traditions had to be obeyed.  We would have been in trouble had the question been refused . . . . .

Which in a long-winded-round-about-way-waffle brings me to the most famous of all Betrothals -  that of a certain Mary and Joseph.  Traditionally a engagement signaled the commitment by 2 people  to each other with a  view to marriage and the 'wedding ceremony'  was the 'confirmation' or public 'celebration' of that commitment. For  many the 'engagement' part is far more important then the marriage part, and it is a pity that through-out history this is or was twisted into something more sinister (virgin marriage - proof thereof  - poor Marie Antoinette was practically raped in front of the entire french nobility in order to "proof", via bloodstained linen, her 'virginity').
Technically both Mary and Joseph (more her though because of the way the patriarchal society was working at the time) were in a lot of trouble by the time they got to Bethlehem.  One assumes they eventually got married, as the story goes and we find out later, that the 'first born' in the famous stable had more brothers / sisters.  Wonder what kind of wedding celebration they would have had - not a lot is said about that in that book.

Anyhow - boys - so far you are safe from me telling the story although, like a good prepared scout,  I already got the rope organized. . . . . ok - until . . . . . :)

Merry Christmas to all

 Have fun! bear print

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