FOR BET­TER OR WORSE

23 sur­pris­ing love and mar­riage cus­toms of the world

Reader's Digest Asia Pacific - - Contents - LOUISE BASTOK

We cel­e­brate love and mar­riage cus­toms.

1 Wife-car­ry­ing World Cham­pi­onships

Each year com­peti­tors in the vil­lage of Sonka­jarvi, Fin­land, par­take in this bizarre sport­ing event. With wife or part­ner slung over the shoul­der, par­tic­i­pants get stuck into a va­ri­ety of chal­lenges and the win­ner re­ceives the part­ner’s weight in beer.

2 Grave­side Wed­dings in Rus­sia

The Tomb of the Un­known Sol­dier, lo­cated at the Krem­lin, is Moscow’s top desti­na­tion for wed­ding par­ties, who snap pho­tos and drink cham­pagne while the bride and groom pay their re­spects by lay­ing flow­ers at the grave site.

3 Whale’s Tooth Gifts

Think you’ve got it hard, shop­ping for that per­fect wed­ding gift? In Fiji it’s com­mon prac­tice when ask­ing for a woman’s hand in mar­riage for the man to present his soon-to-be fa­ther-in-law with a tabua (whale’s tooth). Be­cause, let’s face it, it’s not real love un­less you have to dive hun­dreds of me­tres be­neath the ocean and go toe to fin with the world’s largest mam­mal.

4 Step Inside a Court­ing Hut

Think you had cool par­ents grow­ing up? Think again. In a rev­o­lu­tion­ary par­ent­ing style, some African tribes pro­vide their daugh­ters with ‘court­ing huts’ to en­ter­tain po­ten­tial suit­ors away from the par­ents’ gaze in order to find their one true love.

5 Juliet’s Bal­cony in Verona, Italy

Step back in time into the great­est love story ever. Each year thou­sands flock to Verona’s Casa di Gi­uli­etta, a 13th-cen­tury house be­lieved to have be­longed to the Ca­pulets (never mind that they were all fic­tional char­ac­ters), to add their amorous graf­fiti and notes of ado­ra­tion to the court­yard walls where once fair Juliet was wooed by her Romeo.

6 Ladies’ Choice at Gere­wol Festival

In an an­nual courtship event called the Gere­wol Festival, the men of the Wo­daabe in Niger dress up in elab­o­rate cos­tumes, put on make-up and dance and sing in a bid to win a bride. At the end of the per­for­mance, the women do the choos­ing.

7 Tragic Myth of Imilchil Mar­riage Festival

Set against the mys­tery and ro­mance of the At­las Moun­tains of Morocco, leg­end tells the story of two star­crossed lovers for­bid­den to see each other. The heart­bro­ken cou­ple drowned in their own tears, forc­ing their fam­i­lies to rec­on­cile and es­tab­lish what’s now known as the Imilchil Mar­riage Festival. Each year feast­ing, flirt­ing and fri­vol­ity are the back­drop for local tribes­peo­ple to so­cialise and po­ten­tially meet their fu­ture part­ner.

8 Henna Tat­toos

In Ara­bic and African com­mu­ni­ties, Swahili women adorn them­selves with in­tri­cate henna pat­terns be­fore a wed­ding. Sig­ni­fy­ing the bride’s beauty, wom­an­hood and worth, the most elab­o­rate de­signs are de­sired. Aside from their aes­thetic de­lights, th­ese tat­toos rep­re­sent an em­pow­er­ing, sen­sual qual­ity in Swahili cul­ture, as the de­sign of­ten con­ceals the groom’s ini­tials in a se­cret spot on the bride’s body.

9 My Big, ‘Rich’ Greek Wed­ding

Greek wed­dings are known for their ebul­lience. A won­der­ful tra­di­tion is the cou­ple’s first dance, when guests pin money to the bride’s and groom’s cloth­ing, leav­ing them twirling about the floor en­twined in dec­o­ra­tive (and, ex­pen­sive) pa­per stream­ers.

10 Mount Ha­gen Sing-Sings

Pa­pua New Guinea tribes­peo­ple paint their bod­ies and don elab­o­rate and colour­ful cos­tumes and come to­gether to dis­play their dif­fer­ent cul­tures in a show of mu­sic, song and dance called a sing-sing. Th­ese large gath­er­ings also pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity to meet a po­ten­tial mate.

11 Elop­ing in Scot­land

When the Mar­riage Act of 1753 made it il­le­gal for per­sons under 21 to get hitched in Eng­land and Wales with­out parental con­sent, young sweet­hearts crossed the border to Scot­land where the law didn’t ap­ply. As the first vil­lage over the border, Gretna Green be­came the favourite spot for elop­ing cou­ples. To this day, some 5000 cou­ples visit each year to tie the knot or reaf­firm their vows.

12 Love Spoons in Wales

This adorable Welsh tra­di­tion gives a whole new mean­ing to the term ‘spoon­ing’. The beau presents his lover with a metic­u­lously carved wooden spoon to demon­strate his in­tent and abil­ity to pro­vide for her.

13 Love Pad­locks in Italy

In­spired by Fed­erico Moc­cia’s book and film I Want You, many peo­ple be­gan at­tach­ing their own love pad­locks to the Ponte Mil­vio in Rome. In what is now a world­wide

phe­nom­e­non, cou­ples at­tach the pad­locks and throw the key into the river as a sym­bol of their un­break­able love and com­mit­ment to one an­other. How­ever, in Paris and other places, th­ese trin­kets have be­come so nu­mer­ous as to be a nui­sance, and have to be re­moved.

14 China’s Brides­maid Block­ade

As if the wed­ding day wasn’t stress­ful enough, when the Chi­nese groom comes to fetch his bride, he’s con­fronted by a bar­rage of brides­maids block­ing his en­trance. Af­ter de­mand­ing red en­velopes of money, the brides­maids (and some­times even the grooms­men) sub­ject the groom to a se­ries of games and phys­i­cal tasks – he is forced to sing and sub­jected to teas­ing to prove his love.

15 White Day in Ja­pan

On Valen­tine’s Day in Ja­pan it’s the women who buy choco­lates for the men. But never fear, ladies: one month later it’s White Day, when the chaps have to splash out for the girls if their feel­ings are mu­tual – and they are ex­pected to spend three times as much.

16 The Bride Doll

This sim­ple and sweet Puerto Ri­can tra­di­tion sees a bride doll draped in charms and placed at the head of the top ta­ble of the wed­ding re­cep­tion. To­wards the end of the cel­e­bra­tions, the charms are handed out to the guests as to­kens of grat­i­tude.

17 Ghadames Date Festival

As the date har­vest comes to an end in Ghadames, a Ber­ber town in the north­west of Libya, lo­cals f lock to the World Her­itage–listed old quar­ter to rel­ish in their fruitful har­vest. As the fes­tiv­i­ties progress, many wed­ding cer­e­monies are held as well as com­ing-of-age cel­e­bra­tions for young men.

18 Tree’s the One for Me

Some un­lucky girls in In­dia are born dur­ing the astro­log­i­cal pe­riod when Mars is in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 7th, 8th or 12th house of their lu­nar chart. What’s so wrong with that, you ask? Ba­si­cally, it means they are cursed. Known as Man­g­liks, they are tra­di­tion­ally be­lieved to have an un­happy union if they marry a non-Man­g­lik or even bring an early death to their hus­band. The rem­edy? Have the Man­g­lik first sym­bol­i­cally marry a ba­nana or peepal tree to nul­lify the ef­fect.

19 Korea’s Monthly Valen­tine’s Day

Why have one day when you can have 12? In Korea they don’t just cel­e­brate Valen­tine’s Day on Fe­bru­ary 14 – in fact, the 14th day of ev­ery month

holds ro­man­tic sig­nif­i­cance. With days for sin­gles, days for friends and days just to hug, there’s some­thing to cel­e­brate no mat­ter what your re­la­tion­ship sta­tus.

20 Bach­e­lor and Spin­ster Balls in Ru­ral Aus­tralia

A cher­ished Aussie tra­di­tion, B& S Balls of­fer a rare op­por­tu­nity for young­sters in ru­ral ar­eas to so­cialise. No­to­ri­ous for heavy drink­ing, dan­ger­ous stunts and ca­sual sex, th­ese par­ties were orig­i­nally in­tended for young peo­ple in iso­lated ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties to meet a part­ner, but the fo­cus has in­creas­ingly be­come about hav­ing a good time and meet­ing up with old friends.

21 France’s Toi­let Tra­di­tion

In a weird, won­der­ful, yet ut­terly gross fashion, French new­ly­weds were made to drink the left­over al­co­hol from their wed­ding party out of a (brand-new, un­used) chamber pot. Thank­fully, this cus­tom no longer ex­ists in its en­tirety, but you may come across the bride and groom sup­ping on choco­lates and cham­pagne served out of a chamber pot.

22 Salty Bread to In­spire Ro­man­tic Dreams

In a cel­e­bra­tion of the feast of St Sarkis, the pa­tron saint of young love, un­mar­ried Ar­me­nian women eat a piece of salty bread in the hopes of in­duc­ing a prophetic dream about the man they’ll marry. Not to be taken too se­ri­ously, the idea is that the man who brings you wa­ter in your dream is your fu­ture hus­band. It’s also a kind of bond­ing rit­ual that al­lows the women in the fam­ily to share and in­ter­pret each other’s dreams.

23 TV Dat­ing in In­dia

In­dia is a coun­try where mar­riage is revered, so ad­ver­tis­ing prospec­tive suit­ors and sin­gles in local papers and on­line is com­mon­place, but a new Hindi-lan­guage chan­nel is tak­ing it one step fur­ther. Sh­a­gun TV chan­nel fea­tures a glitzy show that is ba­si­cally teleshop­ping for sin­gles.

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