In both cases, the focal point is the Hina, a cosmetic paint derived from the henna plant. I recently learned that the custom may date back to the Biblical book, Shir Ha-Shirim, the Song of Solomon:
- "My Beloved is unto me as a cluster of Camphire (henna) in the vineyards of Ein-Gedi" Shir HaShirim, 1:14
- or in Hebrew: אֶשְׁכֹּל הַכֹּפֶר דּוֹדִי לִי, בְּכַרְמֵי עֵין גֶּדִי
One of the interesting traditions at many of the Yemenite Hina celebrations that take place in Israel is the custom of having the bride (and sometimes the groom) change outfits on a number of occasions during the course of the evening. The different outfits are usually different bridal outfits that were worn in different regions of Yemen. I have been to Hina celebrations where the bride has worn has many as 5 different outfits, though I think I have only seen the groom change once or twice.
The most famous outfit features a headpiece surrounded with flowers, usually red and white carnations, and adorned with silver jewellery. The jewellery is usually handmade and is often heirloom jewellery that has been passed through the generations in the immediate or extended family. The dress itself may be accented with gold. There is often another outfit featuring a bright red hood, that is said to originate from the Sa'ana region of Yemen and a third outfit that is primarily black. Here are some of the pictures that I have been able to dig up (but not from personal family celebrations):
The featured food can include Yemenite delicacies like Malawach, Jachnun, Sabaya, Kubana and many sweet desserts. I'm not going to write about each of these foods at this point...
I should mention that if you happen to be invited to one of these affairs, the expected gift is some type of present, not necessarily cash itself, which will, of course, be the anticipated gift at the forthcoming wedding celebration...
As with a Yemenite Hina, the bride will usually change outfits at least once or twice. The outfits are not quite as ostentatious but are probably somewhat less conservative. At the recent Hina I attended, the groom wore a traditional white outfit, while the bride wore a beautiful white dress and then an outfit that featured red, primarily. The groom's outfit featured a classic Moroccan fez. One of the bride's outfits featured a completely open back, something that one would not be likely to see at a Yemenite Hina.
At the Moroccan Hina, the henna is mixed with equal fervour by a carefully selected family friend or relative. Special family members, usually either the mother or grandmother of the bride, place the henna dye on the bride's and groom's hands. Gifts are usually exchanged with the family of the groom providing the bride with a special piece of jewellery, often a necklace or earings or even both. The family of the bride may give the groom a new watch or other item.
The bride and groom are brought into the room with great fanfare on a set of velvet covered throne style seats, pushed along with a chain of traditonally garbed family members following behind. Like at a Yemenite Hina, there is plenty of traditional music, food and dancing. At the affair I attended, the Hina component itself was more limited than at a Yemenite Hina, since only the immediate family members placed henna on their hands. But the occasion was an equally festive celebration of a pending wedding.