The Henna Party
Before a woman entrusts her life to her future husband, to her future family and a new circle of friends, before she has to leave her own family, the secure heaven during her years of growing up, she will have her henna party. Not all the modern women will do so, but it is an old tradition in many Islamic countries.
I have been to two henna parties and have realized that they can be different ways of celebrating the event. In the first case I was invited by my Turkish neighbour’s daughter to her family’s house, the family has settled here in 1975 and she is born in Cyprus. All exited, and many days before, she showed me her henna party dress, red and beautifully made, which is just as important as her wedding dress. All women of her neighbourhood and family came to make her leaving her family as sweet as possible and they danced all night to the tunes of a village orchestra, old instruments and old songs. Just her husband was present, rather in the background, the evening belonged to the women. The dances were quite erotic, belly dances and they all showed how well they knew how to dance. Finally the bride showed up clad in her red velvet dress and a veil thrown over her head and they circled and danced around her. Henna was distributed in little pochettes to bring luck to all the members of the party.
The second party was just recently but in a different style, friends were invited to the Bandabulya in Girne, a big hall with cafés and tourist stalls, the market hall in former days as I was told by a friend Ali Nesim who came here on market days on donkey’s back to bring milk and cheese. There was the bride and the bridegroom, her also clad in red velvet embroidered with gold, and the guests were offered henna to put on their hands, actually paying for it. A folkdance group was entertaining the guests with old traditional dances. Dances which are based on village and family festivities, such as weddings, circumcision, harvesting and so on.
I also took some henna and did as the other women did, rubbing it into the flat of my hand and I left some money on the tray of Bedia my friend, the sister of the bride. I smiled and trusted the charm of it.
Copyright Heidi Trautmann 2009