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Weddings in our areas

When it was agreed by the sides in question that someone's daughter should be given as a wife to someone's son, it was arranged to make the tie between them as our forefathers had done before us, and so it was done:

First, the "Tnoim" contract of conditions. The celebration of the meeting of the families for preparing the contract.

It was written how much dowry would be given, a partnership in a business or businesses would be written, the means of support for the couple, "kest" - maintaining a Yeshivah student, living quarters, clothing, even the quality of the "Shtern tichell, (the head-covering of the wife, worn for candle-lighting or for wearing the Synagogue) was included among the jewelery written in the contract. Occasionally, it was stated in the contract that the money, given as a dowry, should not be transferred as the dowry for the groom's sister. All this was written in the contract by the registrar of the contract, and the party was underway, usually with many townspeople present, with kigel and kishke, fluden and shtrudel "cooked and baked", each one as per his means and possibility. The ceremony was ended by a hand-shake, a gift-giving, and the breaking of plates. (By the way, this contract was taken very seriously, because of all these signs. There was a saying "Instead of tearing the contract, better to write a divorce.”). This is because the "Tnoim" contract held effects of a vow (Jews were most wary of breaking a vow). Until this day, a Jew will not promise anything without adding "without a vow". In the contract was also set the wedding date.

The wedding in our area was held at the bride's home, or at the bride's relatives' home, if the bride's parents' home was not suitable. The celebrations began on Saturday, at the groom's home. This was the Saturday of the groom's going up to the Torah (Ufrifen). The bride's family and friends were invited to the Synagogue and showered the groom with candies. At the Synagogue, “kiddush" was held for the entire congregation, and later at the groom's home, a plentiful luncheon was served to the families of the groom and bride, with singing which lasted till "Shaleshides" (the third meal) just before sundown. "Ufrifen biz shaleshides" was normal. At the "Ufrifen", cholnt was never served.

On Sunday began the foreshpiel (foreplay) - a week of events at the bride's home. On Sunday - the bride's friends were invited to see the dowry trunk, especially the embroidered bedding, the curtains, the tablecloths, the underwear: embroidered slips, nightgowns, and the groom's gifts. The refreshments were mostly delicate sweets (“petchenia" jam, and inevitably cooked millet porridge in milk with butter and honey floating on top. The main thing was that everything be sweet. The girls sang, recited poetry in all languages, listened to the gramophone, the married women offering advice to the bride - as they were experienced. (I believe the American "bridal shower" is a remnant of those Sundays.)

Monday was the day for the groom's friends. Everyone begins the day at the Synagogue. Whoever did not get a chance to go up to the Torah on Saturday does so. Again the refreshments are all sorts of herring fish and wine (cake and cognac), bring up memories of bachelorhood, make speeches., if there are learned men. If not a speech is ordered. Chickpeas are eaten. Sometimes, they used to climb onto a wagon or wagons and travel to the nearest forest or town. Then they returned for the afternoon prayers, usually eat a full supper together, and then accompany the groom home.

Tuesday is the poor man's day. Poor people from the entire region arrive. They have their own source of information, especially if the bride's father is rich. The poor people gather in the yard, or between two houses, where a tarpaulin is put up, creating a tent. Tables and benches are brought from the Synagogue and a full meal is served. I was once present at such an event. I will never forget it. The bride's father hands out alms to the poor and they sing and dance till evening.

On Wednesday, the aunts arrive. The seating at the tables is arranged. Nothing is left to chance. The walking to the Chupah (canopy), the serving order, and, of course, the aunts, too, inspect the dowry. Sometimes the bride distributes her old wardrobe among poor relatives.

On Thursday, the out-of-town quests start arriving. The women in the family accompany the bride to the "Mikveh" (public bathhouse) . The "experts" enter the kitchen, sometimes also the kitchens of nearby relatives, or to friendly neiqhbours. "Seven experts" is the norm. Each place has its renowned experts - one is an expert for fish, one for filled necks (geese necks filled with meat), one for kugel, one for fluden.

In our area, the "chuppah" (wedding ceremony) was always held on, late Friday afternoon, near the Synagogue. The bride and groom fasted on their wedding day. The ceremony begins with sitting the bride down on a chair. The entertainer approaches the bride who is sitting on a white covered chair, in her wedding dress, her eyes lowered and she's whispering prayers. (She still does not know how much she must pray...)

Her mother is near her. A bride is never left alone. Satan is provoking. The entertainer begins with "bride, bride, cry, cry,” and recounts all the reasons for crying, and everyone cries: the bride's mother, the grandmother, of course, and all the aunts. Afterwards, it is told who cried and how much. The groom arrives and covers the bride's face. The groom is accompanied by the fathers, the bride by the mothers. The bride's face is covered. Everyone walks to the "Chupah" (canopy) at the Synagogue - it doesn't matter what the distance - after them the entire public, all holding lit candles. The musicians play, and the ceremony is held under the open sky.

Everyone returns from the ceremony. The bride is received at the door of the house with the “chala” (leavened bread) dance. A huge “chala" is baked for this purpose. To receive the bride. The bride lights the "Shabbat" candles for the first time with her mother and other female relatives. Everyone is invited for supper - a holy Shabbat supper. The groom's father makes the blessing over the wine ("Kiddush"). The golden chicken soup is served (with oil floating on top), a king's feast. Seven blessings, Torah recitations, proverbs, no music, of course. The young couple is tired. The bride and groom have fasted and they must uphold the command of unification.

The big celebration is held on Saturday night and, of course, each family as per their means.

After the "Havdallah”, the public is invited to the "wedding". The musicians play. Usually, one of the musicians is also the announcer and he honours the guests by calling out their names. The dancing begins. First to dance is the bride's mother with the bride, dancing the “mitzvah dance". Then joins the groom's mother, the grandmother, the aunts, and everyone. Mixed dancing (men and women together) is done while the couple holds between them a handkerchief (so their hands won't touch). Each town had its own special dances. So it was in our town.

Written by Dina Kurtz-Yanai, daughter of Gedalyahu and Sheindl Pressman from Mezirich.

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