Turkish henna colors Syrian celebrations
Enab Baladi – Fatima al-Mohammad
The henna ritual is essential on joyous occasions in many countries and varies according to the customs and traditions of each country, such as wedding ceremonies that have somewhat similar rituals in many cultures.
The henna celebration in various cultures is a ritual bidding farewell to the bachelorhood of the girl or young man a few days before their wedding, and the bride and groom celebrate by dancing to the rhythms of music and folk songs.
3,222,012 Syrian refugees live in Turkey under the temporary protection law, according to the latest statistics from the Turkish Presidency of Migration Management.
Recently, customs similar to those of the host country have spread in Syrian celebrations, such as tying a red ribbon that connects the wedding rings, some changes in the sequence of celebration rituals, and the establishment of the henna ritual according to Turkish customs.
Safa al-Taha, 27, held a henna party following Turkish customs and told Enab Baladi that she saw how a henna party was held at the house of one of her Turkish friends and was struck by the difference in these traditions, and she wanted to experience it.
She added that it is natural for women to search for specific details that distinguish them from others, especially on important occasions for them.
Al-Taha, an architectural engineer living in the city of Gaziantep in southern Turkey, said that she has always been fascinated by the sultans’ harem clothing in the series and its grandeur.
Al-Taha, who hails from Idlib, tried on several dresses tailored for the henna party, adorned with beads and different colors, with various shapes and designs in the Ottoman style, and the traditional color for a henna party in Turkey is red.
What she liked most about the henna ritual was the dress, which she thought left a more distinctive impression than even the wedding dress, “and it gives the bride luxury and elegance,” as she put it.
One of the reasons that pushed her to hold the party was for her Turkish friends to feel that cultures are similar, or that there is a kind of rapprochement in them, and to prepare them for her wedding party, which was held according to the customary Syrian traditions and differed completely from their traditions.
Crying is a condition
The henna night in Turkey is a tradition specific to the bride and is for her close circle, such as her family and close friends, and is held at the bride’s father’s house a day before the wedding, according to the Turkish Sabah newspaper.
The bride wears a “bindalli” dress on this night, and the attendees are given henna sweets and nuts and then the henna rituals begin, with the most important ritual in the celebration being to make the bride cry, so the people circle around her while singing, holding candles in dim lights, and they do not stop until the bride cries.
The girl who will apply the henna to the bride is required to be the happiest for her marriage among the attendees.
It is considered an intimate ritual as it is limited to family members and close friends. My henna was attended by 20 people who truly love me and whom I love, and they are close to me; they covered my head with a red scarf and started circling, holding candles to the tune of sad Turkish songs dedicated to the henna. The lyrics talk about separation from family, which made me cry.
Breaking the Jar
Fatima Muwass, 24, said she had always seen the henna ritual in Turkish series and wanted to do it. When the time for her henna came, she sought help from her Turkish neighbors in the province of Hatay, where she resides, in conducting the rituals.
Muwass, who hails from Hama, added that the henna rituals helped her spend a beautiful and enjoyable time with her friends and family and relieved the tension before the wedding.
After the end of the circling ritual around the bride, the ritual of applying henna to the bride’s palm comes, and she is not supposed to open her hand until the groom’s mother puts a gold lira in it. Then, the party of applying henna to the bride and her friends begins, according to her.
In some customs, the groom joins the party, as happened with Muwass’ henna, and henna was drawn for her and her groom.
The bride dances to a song dedicated to breaking the jar, with a jar on the ground, and she is supposed to break it, and it may contain money or candies collected by the children present.
She pointed out that the henna ritual used to be more common in Syria, but it disappeared over time.
Henna is famous in several Syrian cities and is used for dyeing hair and hands for girls and for dyeing beards and graying hair for men, in addition to henna parties at weddings.
Henna was one of the main wedding rituals in Daraa governorate.
The wedding party is divided over several days and lasts for seven nights, during which “dabke” and dances take place, in addition to the chants and songs, and a day before the wedding, the henna night is held at the groom’s house, and it is a busy day from beginning to end, especially for the groom and his family, according to the intangible cultural heritage website.
Ghufran Mahamid, 45, said that when her wedding was held 20 years ago in the city of Daraa, the night of henna was still an essential ritual that could not be bypassed in celebrations.
The celebrations are held for three consecutive days, amid folk and modern songs, with women ululating and singing traditional chants, and “dabke” and dances are held around the groom and his family.
A specialized cook is hired to cook “mansaf” (lamb meat, rice, and yogurt), the groom’s family cooks “manasef al-Melehi” (bulgur, jameed, Arab ghee, lamb meat, and kibbeh), and others cook “manasef al-Ouzi” (rice with lamb meat), and various types of “manasef,” with nearly 15 carcasses slaughtered in Mahamid’s henna night.
She added that the henna is more special for the groom’s family, and during the celebration, the groom’s friends knead the henna and massage the fingers of one of his hands.
Then the groom’s family goes to the bride’s house and celebrates with her, and the next day is the wedding day.
The final ritual for the henna was when they escorted me to my husband’s house, and they gave me henna dough to stick on the wall with my right hand and another dough to stick on the wall with my left hand, as a message saying that I have become a part of this family.
Where does henna come from?
The henna plant comes from a shrub belonging to the Lythraceae family, and its age ranges from three to ten years, and it exists in Syria and Lebanon in high mountains, according to the Syrian Clinic forums.
The most producing countries of the henna plant are Egypt, Sudan, India, and China, and the henna plant needs a hot environment to grow densely. Its main habitat is southwest Asia, and its cultivation is spread in the countries of the Mediterranean basin.
Henna has been known since ancient times, and the Pharaohs used it to make a mixture for dyeing hands and hair and treating wounds, and they made perfume from its flowers.
The Arab and Islamic countries and African communities, as well as South and Southeast Asia, have been using it for adornment purposes for thousands of years, and it is placed on the hair, nails, feet, and the back of the hand, according to the Syrian Clinic forums.
The henna mixture is prepared in a glass container by mixing it with warm water and stirring it well; then it is left for a period ranging from one to two hours and then placed in the desired area for henna for a period of an hour until it gives the dark red color.
If a person wants to increase the density of the color, they leave the henna for a longer time and then wash it.
If henna is applied to the head and beard, the head is wrapped with a warm towel to preserve the moisture of the paste.
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