If you ask any woman here what would she do to not miss a wedding, the answer would be: Anything!
Weddings have always held prominence among social activities in Palestinian society. When I was young—too young to go to weddings, I remember the way grownups talked about them. The day would start very early around 6:00 am. Women would gather in the house of the family holding the wedding and cook for a few dozen people. Usually, the senior women in the family would take the lead in this most laborious role.
Huge stockpots were placed over fire in an open area outside. A woman presiding over a pot each, stirring, adding spices and ingredients. The main dish was always rice and meat. This method has been outdated these days. Thirty years ago, there were hardly any restaurants in Gaza. Today, there are dozens and all you do is order the food and take it home or wherever the feast is to be held.
I’ve never imagined myself cooking for large numbers of people, but I like watching women who do. They handle the whole process in a most solemn manner, as if it were a religious ritual.
Today, families can pick what part of the festivities to include or omit. For example, a bachelor’s party is a must for the vast majority of families here, but some families may choose not to have one. There is also Henna party for the bride and her family before the wedding day. Some families have traditions of a week of celebrations that precede the wedding. Phew!
Shopping for weddings dresses and paraphernalia can take months of preparation. As for time spent at the hairdresser’s, it takes from 5-6 hours. For someone like me who likes quietude, I see the uproar and commotion caused by weddings similar to a state of emergency.
I may not be a party person, but I love how people here in Gaza love to enjoy weddings and other happy occasions. When I attend a wedding party, I see women dance in rhythmic patterns with such vigor and passion. The happiness they imbue makes you feel like they’ve never seen a sad day in their lives. Just watching them uplifts your spirits and makes you see how capable we are as Palestinians of love and happiness. Despite life under Israeli occupation, colonialism and apartheid, we can still celebrate our memorable moments. Palestinian weddings convey a message that we will keep holding on to our heritage. We will continue to grow and teach our children that they have a land called Palestine.