Henna nights, where joy and sorrow are felt together, actually date back to very old times. Henna nights used to be celebrated with different rituals in the past; but now, they much more look like bachelorette parties where the bride-to-be celebrates together with her friends. Having many details like trousseau and henna, wedding ceremonies are one of the most important parts of various cultures. And henna nights are among the essentials of this process. Let’s have a look at this special tradition from past to present. Here are the things you need to know about henna night tradition from past to present...
The origin of henna tradition
We know that people have been painting their bodies for embellishment, treatment, etc. purposes for thousands of years. Although these paintings are under cover, body painting has actually been popular in any era. The most preferred painting to paint the body is certainly henna. Henna, which is very easy to find, is a very inexpensive natural painting. So, when did henna tradition start?
Answering this question and following the progress of henna throughout history are difficult due to the centuries-old migrations and cultural amalgamation; however, it is thought that it dates back to the pagan era. At the beginning, sacrifices to the gods were painted with henna, and then, old ladies began to dye their hair with henna in order to show that they were ready for death. In time, henna tradition extended to the events like engagement, wedding, circumcision, and military service. Henna was used by people for its cooling and healing effect on hands and feet, but it was always associated with marriage in almost every culture.
Henna night tradition in Ottomans
In the past, wedding entertainments used to start with the arrival of the trousseau at the groom’s house on Monday. There would be various ornaments made with fabrics, fruits, and trees in front of the parade. There would be bride’s bath on Tuesday, and on Wednesday night, henna night would be organized in the bride’s home. On the henna night, the bride as well as the young girls and aunts-in-law would wear velvet dresses named as ‘bindalli’, and the bride would put a sequinned and red veil on her face. The henna tray would be brought to the bride’s house by the relatives of the groom with two candles on it. After the guests arrived, the mother-in-law would have the silk fabric she brought spread in front of her. The bride and her friends would take a burning candle on their hands and visit the guests. The bride would come to kiss her mother-in-law’s hand by walking on the silk fabric she spread. The guests would be offered dried nuts, buns, sugared almond, etc. Then, special henna night songs would be sung, trying to make the bride cry. As it was believed that the crying of the bride would bring abundance, those who did not cry would be reproached. After the bride started to cry upon the songs, she would sit on a pillow, and her mother-in-law would apply henna on her palm and put a gold on it. The bride needed to keep this gold for good luck and abundance. Other young girls who wanted to get married would apply henna on their hands to receive a marriage proposal.
Changing henna nights
Henna night tradition has undergone obvious changes since the Ottoman period. Henna nights started to be organized at the bride’s house one night before the wedding. Usually the bride’s girlfriends would join the henna night. On the day of henna night, a flag would be hung at the bride’s house to show that the wedding started. The guests would be offered dried nuts and beverages, and perform traditional dances during the night. The bride would wear a dress she liked, but she would change her clothes and wear ‘bindalli’ during the henna ceremony. She would put a red scarf on her head. Two chairs would be put side by side in the middle of the room for the bride and groom to sit, and the henna tray would be prepared meanwhile. Young girls would start singing songs with a candle on their hands, and turning around the empty chairs in the center. Then, the bride and groom would sit on the chairs, and the others would try to make the bride cry. Both the bride and the groom would be applied henna on their hands, and the rest of the henna would be offered to the guests. In addition, if a single friend of the bride stole the bride’s scarf on her head, she would be believed to get married soon.
Today’s modern henna nights
Henna night tradition has a more modern meaning today, and has been replaced by bachelorette parties, especially in metropolises. Henna nights are now usually organized in entertainment venues a few days before the wedding. They can be organized even at SPA centers, hotels, and pubs. Today, these organizations can be attended by the groom and his friends as well. However, despite all these changes, the bride-to-be is still forced to cry, and henna is applied on her hands.
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