Cris in Ethiopia

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Posted by Cris on May 21, 2007

So pretty much everyone here, even the newspapers, calls weddings “weedings”. This makes for funny signs and papers, such as the store “Weeding Town”, signs advertising “Weeding Car Rentals” and time-off request forms at some NGOs that have a box to check if you want to take “Weeding Leave”. I guess if your garden gets a little too unruly…

Right now is full-on weeding season in Addis, so we see a lot of weeding processions driving around town. They look like this: first, a car/truck with a few people in the back, hanging on somehow with their legs and knees while videotaping what is happening behind them. Then we have 4-5 white (always white) Mercedes Benz’s (always Mercedes) with ribbons on the hood and trunk, driving slowly and honking their horns. The first car always contains the bride and groom, then various weeding dignitaries in the cars that follow. After the White Benz Brigade we have private cars, also driving slowly and honking. After this, the lesser peasantry of the weeding follow in rented minibus taxis. The idea seems to be to go slow enough to cause traffic disturbances, thereby increasing your visibility and the attention you can garner. Whether people are clapping, saluting (we saw an old man salute a weeding caravan one day), or shaking their fists, theyre still looking at you, right? It also seems pretty important to get the whole trip on videotape. I can see it in 25 years: “And here’s when we crossed Bole Rd… And heres when we turned right onto Churchill… And here’s when we almost ran over that beggar because the driver was talking on his phone and waving to his buddy on the sidewalk at the same time… OOoooh the memories!”

According to my students, everyone gets married in April and May because A) its right before the rainy season, B) its a lucky time of the year to do so, and C) (this from an older student) since the rainy season in Ethiopia is considered the winter, and crops are harvested before the rains, the food and everything you need for a good weeding are cheaper this time of the year.

Weddings themselves are pretty meaningless as far as the law goes. My students say that the real marriage happens in from of the government whoever three days before the actual hoo-haw takes place. So the marriage itself consists of pictures, driving around in white cars, and feasting. “Its like Easter, but even more!” said one of the people in my classes. Drinking, dancing, cutting cakes, and drinking are also involved. The ceremonies in Addis sound pretty westernized, with the giant white dress and tuxedos being the preferred dress.

After the ceremony and feast the couple go to their room to… well… you know. Yes, in some families the whole “show the bloody sheet” thing is still in effect the morning after. So, if for “whatever” reason that is impossible, the students said either a chicken or some Vimto can take care of the problem. Not ketchup (I asked), but Vimto. And I thought it was for bloody marys.


2 Responses to “Weedings”

  1. AD said

    It doesn’t sound that different from western countries, where you don’t need a ceremony to become married. It’s a legal obligation and only a religious or spiritual one if you desire it so. Thank goodness we don’t have to show the bloody sheets any longer!

  2. Rob said

    Sounds like a hoot! Hopefully some of those cameras now have image stabilization. I noticed that drinking was twice as important than anything else in your description… at least they know where the priorities are!

    I think a white Benz rental operation might be a fruitful enterprise 🙂

    So, in your opinion are all the brides ‘beautiful’ at least for that day?

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