Nadia Dagla

Philologist - Theologian
Folklore research & chronicles 

Traditional Meganisian Wedding

Holy and blessed was the moment when the date of the wedding was set.

Joy in the house, in the neighbourhood, in the whole village. The mother's responsibility was heavy and her pride great. Her first responsibility, the dowry. The girl would enter a new home as a lady, accompanied by the blessing of her parents, but also the dowry, just as specified in the dowry contract.

'A month before the wedding, the women of the village would accompany the mother with singing and good spirits to the sea to help wash the hair. The hair had to be washed, opened and sanded to make it fluffy, since it would fill the mattress and the bridal pillows. On the way back home, the greetings and treats began. The glass trays carried sweets and the raki glasses were filled with sweet drinks (liqueurs) of banana, cloves, cinnamon and mint, but also ouzo for every wish and every encounter. At the bride's house, a meal was offered to those who took part in the process. The house from that day on was filled with people. Friends, cousins and neighborhood girls would gather to iron, fold and pin (i.e. sew with a red thread) the bride's dowry. Red symbolizing the blessed union of the married couple, but also joy, gallantry and beauty.

Two weeks before the wedding, the bride's cake is prepared. Close relatives on both sides gather at the bride's house, bringing with them oil, flour or sugar (ingredients for the cake). Each has a symbolism. Sugar to make the couple's life sweet, flour to make it stable, oil for wealth and abundance. The fire is lit and in the large copper pot they stir the sweet, with songs and joy. The hot halva is spread on the large copper pans and with great care is divided into “felia” (carved into pieces) and decorated with sesame and almonds. The pans are taken to the oven and once baked, they are rolled up and placed in the decorated cutters to be distributed to the mattresses. In the afternoon of the same day, the first aunts of the bride invite the relatives to the mattresses.

On the Sunday before the wedding, the “mattresses” took place in the bride's house. In front of the relatives and fellow villagers, the groom and his family would count the dowries. The bride's first aunt took on this role. They would sit in a circle around the spot where the clothes were to be dropped and before the counting began, first the mother-in-law, the groom's aunts and the maid of honor would sew the full cushions with red thread. First came the thick clothes, the woven textiles, the beddings, the bedspreads, the white linen, sheets, towels, tablecloths, needlework, traditional embroideries and knitwork. White linen clothes worked with patience and craftsmanship and a secret desire to impress. Confetti, rose petals and coins along with wishes covered the clothes. And after everyone had been treated to the traditional dessert, the clothes had to be taken to the house where the newlyweds would stay. Everyone helped. The white clothes were stuffed into the baskets that the women carried on their heads, for the thick clothes the men helped. In the groom's house, a new piggy bank was set up for the coarse clothes and the wardrobes were filled with white clothes and needlework.

On Tuesday morning the call for the groom's leavened bread was made. Two of the groom's aunts would call door to door for relatives and friends for the leavened bread and the wedding. At the groom's house from the afternoon, tables were set up to accommodate the whole village. Drinks and snacks in abundance. When the bride arrived with her family, the process began. A white tablecloth was laid out of the front door and the kneading trough was placed on it to knead the bun. Around it, girls with colored scarves on their heads and embroidered aprons would gather to knead and women would gather to sing it.

Singing played an important role in the whole wedding, but especially during the leavened bread. Sometimes it makes invocations, sometimes it comments and sometimes it describes the events. The process began with singing: "Gather all the partridges and all the canaries and let's take hold of the wedding’s leaven breads. My Lady Faneromeni, with your only begotten Son here in this joy, give your blessing. Give me your blessings my father on my fair leaven bread, take my blessing, my child, and may God give you prosperity..." The flour was sifted by boys accompanied by singing: "My good sieve and my beautiful sieve, shake our flour well, unite this couple well...".  When the kneading was over, they would call the groom's parents by singing: "Come on, mother, give your silver and father, give your gold..." The father, after making his cross, placed a ring of red thread on the dough, crossing it three times, and the mother in the same way usually placed a golden sovereign. The dough is covered with a white woven towel and the guests pass and drop banknotes. A couplet accompanied each one of them according to their name, such as: "My lord, Ai Yiannis, your censer is gold, help and keep your namesake safe", his marital status: "You have children, you have buttons, you have pearls, may God praise them to be brave lads" and the mood of the singers.

On Wednesday morning they knead the groom's large buns, to be distributed after the wedding, and several small ones, to be distributed in the afternoon of the same day in the homes of those invited to the ceremony. On the same day, the bride's leaven bread was held, with the process being taken to her parents' house. On Thursday afternoon the buns were distributed to the bride's guests.

On Saturday morning, the relatives of the bride and groom would arrive at their fathers' houses with the “kaniskia” (corves). The “kaniski” was a gift from the relatives to the parents of the couple. In a large decorated basket they carried foodstuffs for the wedding table, a slain goat or lamb, beer and refreshments. On Saturday evening there was a separate table at the bride and groom's parents' house. Early in the afternoon they would light a fire and cook stewed meat with potatoes in large cauldrons. The table was set with woven white tablecloths and the accompaniment of a song invoking the blessing of the Virgin Mary. At the end of the meal they would sing the “tavla” songs (table songs) beginning with: "At this table we are sitting, here we have called the Angel and we have invited Christ to treat him, and we worship the virgin Mother, and we worship her...". At the dances that followed, the bride would lead the dance along with her beloved relatives. The feast lasted until the morning.

On Sunday, the day of the bride dawned. Both houses were crowded, some were cooking the kokoretsi which they ate before leaving for the church, others were preparing lunch (roast lamb). The groom's preparation began with his friends shaving him while they sang: "The plane tree is a barber, the cypress is a groom...". The best man would come from the groom's house with the wedding wreaths and candles so that they could set off together to the church. An unmarried boy was leading the way, holding the tray with the wedding wreaths, followed by two boys with the candles, then the groom with the best man and the rest of the relatives singing all the way to the church where they were waiting for the bride.

The bride had to be dressed, her hair to be combed and sung to. She always wore an amulet given to her by her mother to protect her from the evil eye. After getting ready, she would go out into the courtyard and dance with her family (parents, brothers and sisters): “My bride may today’s joy be of good luck, today you should wear white, you should wear a dress, you should wear the bridegroom's ring and the headdress”.  When they were ready to start for the church, she would come out the door accompanied by her father and older brother and they would sing to her: "Come out my bride to the door as you once came out...". They continued singing until they reached the church, "Today the sky shines, today the day shines, today the eagle marries the dove." "Where you're going, my bride, don't chew cinnamon, don't smell cloves, and thus forget us." In front of the bride went her sister or cousin dressed in the traditional costume, carrying in a basket on her head the bride's bun decorated with flowers. The ceremony took place after the Sunday service. After the wedding everyone went to the groom's house. On arrival they would sing: "Come out, lady and mother-in-law, to welcome the partridge." The father-in-law offered the bride honey and bread, symbols of sweet life, prosperity and strength. He gave her an axe with which she made the sign of the cross on the door three times (an attempt to drive away evil and defeat it) and a pomegranate which she smashed on the ground by entering the house with her right hand. Finally she was given a glass of water and after drinking a little she would pour the rest behind her. Any single person who got wet would be married within the year. The bride's family would return to her father's house for their own feast. On Sunday afternoon, the bride's relatives would go back to the groom's house to make the bed. After they made the bed and put silver coins on it they filled the couple with wishes for a happy married life and for babies to come, they cut and distributed the bride's bun to all those present. On Sunday evening, each family continued the feast separately.

On Monday morning the bride wore the traditional bridal uniform and went to the village well to fetch fresh water for her parents and her new home. Her relatives would accompany her with songs and after drawing water from the well, she would cut her bun and distribute it to the people. On the way back she would treat everyone she met to sweet bread and ouzo along with bun. The procession would end up at her new home, where the bride would set the tables with white tablecloths from her dowry (the most decorated), for them to eat the traditional red meat soup.

On Tuesday morning, they would make the traditional oil pie at the groom's house to distribute to the whole village to receive wedding wishes. And after they were done with the dessert, young and old participated in the flour-making. Proper flour-fighting spread throughout the neighborhoods where there were guests at the wedding.

Oftentimes, the whole week was spent dining and feasting at the groom's house.

And the whole place was filled with singing, feasting, laughing and wishing for many days.

May joy always be by our side!