Wedding celebrations in the Radom region

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Wedding celebrations in the region surrounding Radom, a city in central Poland, were quite unusual for Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries, in that arranged marriage was practiced.

Wedding[edit]

Marriage was perhaps the most important event in a person's life. In the Radom region it was parents who decided, who their daughter or son would marry. It was their decision if their child was ready to get married. They started searching when they deemed the time right, and if they found someone the made contact with the parents of a potential fiancée. If there was a chance of building a relationship, men called 'swaci' were officially sent on behalf of the parents of a bachelor to visit the parents of the girl in question. The men who played the role of the 'swaci' were usually serious and respectable householders. They brought the girl's parents vodka, which they put on the table after entering the house. Then they discussed the potential marriage, but never directly - the girl was named a goose or a heifer, the marriage - a purchase. This strange conversation was meant to divert the attention of different demons - in case dark powers tried to thwart their plans. If the parents finally drank vodka with them - the marriage was to take place. If not - the bachelor had to start looking for another girl.

When everything went right, the engagement was announced in the local church. Weddings took place in autumn, after the harvest, when there would be enough food. If the family was very poor, neighbours helped to prepare the celebration, giving flour, eggs and rice. One of the traditions was to bake a special cake called 'korowaj' a day before the wedding. It was round, decorated with the figures of humans, animals and birds on the top. It was a symbol of prosperity and well-being. A 'korowaj' was prepared only by women, men were forbidden to enter the room when it was baked, because this was believed to bring bad luck. The cake could be prepared only once, even if it was not good, it had to be eaten during the wedding. When it was too big to take it out of the oven, then the oven, not the cake, had to be destroyed.

On the day of the wedding the bride locked herself in with her bridesmaids, who helped her to get dressed. Then the groom came to her house he had to 'kidnap' the bride. The bridesmaids tried to 'prevent' it, but he was always successful. The bride had to weep saying how good it had been with her parents and how unhappy it would be with her husband. Before the ceremony in church the parents had to give their blessing to the engaged.

The ceremony took place at church, with a priest. After that, the 'newlyweds' came back to the bride's house, where they were welcomed by her parents with bread and salt. Other guests had to drink a glass of vodka. The party then started. The meals were very simple: broth with potatoes, boiled meat, barley, bread and sausages, washed down with a big amount of vodka and beer. Guests danced until midnight.

About midnight a special part of the wedding started, called in Polish 'oczepiny'. The bride was placed in the middle of the room. While she was singing a traditional song 'Oj chmielu, chmielu...', the bridemaids took off her garland - the symbol of virginity. The mother of the bride cut off her hair and put on a coif - a symbol of a married woman. The bride had to cry then, thinking about the good times of her childhood. After that, she collected money from the guests for a so-called caul ('czepek').

The next day, in the morning, the bride had to move into her husband's house. She travelled on an oxcart, which carried also her marriage portion: hens, geese and boxes with all necessary things. She also had a cow, which travelled next to this oxcart. The bride was welcomed by her parents-in-law and her husband also with bread and salt. Then a second party began.

References[edit]

  • Radom's Regional Wanderings, J. Pulnar, Radom 2000