Sicilian Culture

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Engagement, Wedding & Honeymoon Traditions

Rapture
In even more ancient times, the word "rape" did not mean the ugly sexual aggrevated assault we hear about in the world of today.  Rape, coming from the word Rapture, meant, the hunt and seduction of a woman.  Often in Roman Mythology we will hear about the "rape" of this goddess or that goddess or whatever.  It simply meant the man pursued the woman (serenade), seduced her and made her his own.  Its actually quite a beautiful, romantic notion, unfortunately the word has come to evolve and be associated with the more accurate term, sexual aggrevated assault, which clearly means the woman is stalked and taken against her will and violated.

The Engagement
Like many marriages in the "old world" (not just Italy), families would often arrange the marriage between man and women.  We see one captivating example of an "old world proposal" in The Godfather when Michael Coreleone (played by Al Pacino) goes with his bodyguards to the father of a woman that has captivated him.  The bodyguards are very nervous, but Michael is confident. Sometimes it is similar of the old way men would approach the father, and it the "first date" was often a meeting of the family in a dinner type setting.  For those of you who have never seen the Godfather, again, I must urge you to, as it is not another "mafia movie" (something we do NOT endorse at SicilianCulture.com) but a real movie about real Sicilian traditions.

In medieval times, it was legend that dictated the belief that diamonds were created by flames of love.  The gold standard in Italy always has been, and until this day, is 18k gold. My first visit to Italy was when I was in college. I was working part time in a chain jewelry store in the local mall in order to help pay for college. But when I got to Florence, I was amazed that not only was all the gold 18k (not just wedding rings) but it was also 25% less than what we pay in the United States for 14k or 10k.

The Dowry
A dowry (still popular today in Turkey) was paid by the family of the bride, usually in the form of a large sum of money. Why?  Well, quite frankly, its a sexist thing, they feel that the man is taking the woman off the hands of her father, giving her a home, supporting her, feeding her, etc.  Obviously, women of today's world, most definitely the United States, and even in the bigger cities of Italy, women laugh at this, as they have prove all so well that they can take care of themselves without any man.

The Night Before The Wedding
The night before a woman gets married, she often wears the color green which is thought to bring luck and abundance to the couple.  Bachelor or bachelorette parties are not part of the festivities.  

Weddings and baptisms never take place during Lent (Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday) unless it is an emergency, even to this day in the Roman Catholic Church, even in the USA.   In Italy, May and August are also avoided because the month of May is the veneration of the Virgin Mary, and August is thought to be bad luck. Yes, by now you are starting to learn how superstitious the Italians, more particularly the Sicilians are.  The oddest thing is, that they are also very devout Catholics, and Catholics are not supposed to believe in superstition. Additionally, the groom is supposed to carry a piece of iron in his pocket (Toc Ferro) to ward off the evil eye (mal'occhio), the reasoning being that his happiness might invoke envy and invite danger from other people and/or evil spirits.  The bride wears a veil to conceal her from these same evil spirits.

The bride never wears any gold jewelry, it is thought to bring bad luck, until, of course, the her wedding ring is on.  

And, it can't all be about avoiding bad luck, sometimes you have to go with a sure thing, like getting married on a Sunday, that is the luckiest day of the week.  (Especially for those attending, because now they don't have to go to church two days in the same week, they can get it done all in one day).  But that is more of an American thing, Americans (not all) often find going to church an inconvenience, and as a child, I often argued that since I was at a Saturday wedding, I did not have to go to church again on Sunday.  Italians take pride and joy in attending church on a Sunday.   

Wedding Favors
One thing I remember from my childhood, and sometimes I still see today, were those sugar-coated almonds in plastic mesh bags which are called bomboniera. This symbolizes the "bitter-sweet" sacrament of marriage.  As always, odd numbers are luckier (in anything and everything) to the Italians, so there should always be an odd number of these candies. Also, when you serve your sambuca with coffee beans, 3 is traditional, again, always an odd number.

The Reception
One little known tradition, and more common in southern regions of Italy, the couple throws glass, shattering it into as many pieces as they can at the end of their wedding day. The more pieces it shatters in, that represents how many years of marriage they will have together.

Even before any food is served, the best man greets the guests at the reception with a tray of liquor, sweet liquors for the women, strong drinks.  This is used in place of champagne to toast the newlywed couple. "Cent Anni" literally means "100-years" as if to say, 100 years of live, love and happiness.  

Like today, the bride carries a satin bag called la borsa.  Guests place envelopes containing money to help pay for the wedding.  It is common, like in the United States, for the bride's family to pay for the wedding.

Food, naturally, is what takes place now.  Dinners containing more than a dozen courses are served, many symbolizing specific foods for good luck.  One common "starter" is the Wedding Soup, which is actually chicken soup with miniature meatballs.  Espresso and pastries are served after the dinner, and of course, once everyone has had enough to eat and drink the Tarantella dance!

The Honeymoon
You never have to travel far to have an exotic honeymoon in Italy.  You have the Islands breathtaking Islands of Capri, Sicily, Sardinia and of course some of the most beautiful cities in the world on the mainland! 

Required Reading for Italian-Americans...


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