Nuse, Darsme, dhe Dhëndër (Bride, Weddings and Groom)
This week I was invited to the four-day wedding celebration.
All the recently married women dress up in their wedding dresses, along with three other dresses and the traditional dimija, a traditional pant/skirt with a large amount of fabric collected at the waist and a long-sleeved top embroidered with gold thread. These brides/nuses dance around in a circle with these outfits in super-high heels and lots of gold around their neck. The more gold a bride has, the more wealthy the family into which she is marrying. It is a sign of status when these brides wear their expensive outfits and gold.
The first day of the wedding celebration is just with the groom’s family. This is the day that the groom’s family gathers all the clothing for the bride. This night was filled with baklava, an amazing sweet layered dessert with walnuts and honey, loud music and lots of dancing. At one point, the loud music stopped and the women got out tambourines and sang traditional Albanian songs and danced. This was really enjoyable because I felt like I went back a hundred years. I was dancing to live music with the singers surrounding me.
By the end of the first night I was full of juice and baklava, and my feet hurt from so much dancing.
The second day of the wedding started with dancing and singing songs about each member of the family – the mother, the mother-in-law, the father, the father-in-law, the sisters, the brothers… okay, you get the point. I was amazed at how many young women knew these songs. They were like Girl Scouts songs of the culture, engraved in the young girls’ minds for when they would have to carry on the traditions.
Then we drove to multiple houses, singing and dancing the whole way. The most important thing: we were given several chickens. No, not live chickens. These were killed, plucked and feathered chickens that had been roasted steaming hot and ready to eat.
By 2 a.m., we returned to the groom's house and finally sat down to enjoy the fruits of our labor: chicken.
On the third day of the wedding, the groom’s family (who I was with) went to the bride's family and danced to celebrate her coming to their home. When I danced in the big circle to celebrate, I couldn’t help but realize how I have integrated over the past two years. Two years ago I would have sat on the grass and watched the dancing taking place because I wouldn’t know how to dance or how to join in. Now I am confident and I sort of blend in. People don't know I am an American until they talk to me for a while and detect my accent.
The fourth and final day of the wedding started early in the morning with music cranked up and people dancing to celebrate. After doing our hair and makeup, we went to the wedding venue. The bride wore a glamorous white dress and everyone had their eyes glued to her.
Antigona and Ardelina, the two sisters that took me in as their own sisters from the second I met them, created a safe and fun environment for me. The second I stepped into the dancing circle, they grabbed my hand and smiled. One of my goals in the Peace Corps was to make just two or three real friends. Make friends that I thought would last me the rest of my life. Little did I know that these two young ladies are more than friends – they are my sisters.
These four days of wedding preparation and celebration were by far my favorite wedding experiences in Macedonia. I want to thank the Alili family for including me and making me feel a part of everything! Faleminderit Shume!