Wedding Traditions and Matrimony in Sasun

Wedding Traditions and Matrimony in Sasun

In Sasun, especially during celebrations and pilgrimages, girls braided their hair in forty braids and decorated their heads with wreaths woven from evergreen mountain flowers. They dressed up so well that they drove the guys crazy.

More than decorations, the brave men of Sasun valued girlish beauty, shyness, and modesty.

“The girl, blushing with shame, has honor,” said the mountaineers. All the people of Sasun knew each other very well, as well as knew each other’s origins up until the seventh generation.

If a girl wasn’t married before 20, she was considered “old” and had to marry a widower.

In order to win the girls, the guys tried to show their strength and courage in wrestling, dexterity and accuracy in archery, as well as during combat.

If in love, both the boy and the girl first of all communicated their feelings to their mothers who in their turn told their husbands about it. If the parents did not give their consent, there could be no marriage.

Right up to the beginning of the 20th century, marriage took place mainly at the will of the parents. Although it was customary for the boy’s parents to make an offer – to do matchmaking (“աղջիկ ուզել”, “ask for the girl”) – the girl’s parents sometimes were the first to initiate the talks about marrying their daughter off.

There were also cases of abduction of girls, but they did not always result in the conclusion of a peace union. Often, as a result of similar incidents, enmity began between houses and even villages.

There have been cases of engagement of young children, as well as those who have not yet been born. Before marrying somebody off this way, the whole village had to be informed about it.

The wedding ceremony had a special ritual, including engagement, betrothal, acquaintance with the bride, the wedding, and setting up a bed with a canopy for the wedding night.

The wedding, depending on the financial ability of the parents of the bride and groom, lasted 3-7 days. It took place in the church. If the church was too far from the village, the wedding was held in the groom’s house during the wedding celebration. After a wedding in the church, the procession would move in the direction of the groom’s house to the sounds of trumpets and accompanied by songs and dances.

On the threshold of the house, the mother-in-law met the bride and the groom. She would put a fresh lavash (Armenian white bread) over the bride’s shoulder, kiss her, and escort her into the house. Congratulations and wishes of happiness would begin along with fiery dances and games between peers.

War games between the camps of the bride and groom could last for hours. In these fierce battles, heads were sometimes broken, some of the warriors were seriously injured, but this never turned into enmity and hatred.

The wife was considered an honor for the husband. One word from the wife inspired the husband to perform a feat. The people of Sasun said that the word a wife cannot not have consequences. For the bridegroom, the mother-in-law was the most beloved relative of the wife, as much as the Church of Surb Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God) on Mount Marut would be for a believer.

Once, when pilgrims came down from the mountain of Marut, the new son-in-law stayed in the temple and asked: “Mount Marut, how are you living without a mother-in-law?” The son-in-law considered it his duty to respect and, if necessary, take care of his mother-in-law as he would do for his mother, and the mother-in-law should have loved him and honored him as her own son.

In Sasun, the daughter-in-law should have been silent. She could speak with her mother-in-law after the wedding. She would not speak with her father-in-law, sometimes even until his death. If necessary, she would answer his questions with a movement of the head.

Divorce in Sasun was banned. In the thousand-year history in this mountainous world, one can find only very rare cases of divorce. Divorce was considered a disgrace both for the daughter-in-law and for the son-in-law.

Arshaluis Zurabyan

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