Unique Wedding Tradition in Ribnovo, Bulgaria
Bulgarian Muslim women dance during a two-day wedding ceremony in the village of Ribnovo on Jan. 2.
By Chen Hang
RIBNOVO, Bulgaria, Jan. 4 — On Wednesday morning, Fatme Ulanova, a 21-year-old girl of Ribnovo, is busy making herself up to marry Djemal Sirakov.
The village of Ribnovo is located in the Rhodope Mountains in Bulgaria, some 190 km south of the country's capital Sofia. There live about 3,000 people, all being Bulgarian Muslims.
Mayor of the local municipality Ahmed Bashev told Xinhua that Ribnovo is famous for its unique wedding tradition, which cannot be seen elsewhere in Bulgaria.
Bashev said the wedding in Ribnovo usually lasts two days, and is held in the cold weather from November to March, because there is a lot of work for the local people during the other seasons.
Traditionally, the bridegroom builds the house for the young family, while the bride provides all the household stuff — from clothing and furniture to the refrigerator and TV.
During the first day of the wedding, parents of Fatme showed all the dowry of the bride on the street in front of her house, while parents of the bridegroom gave a banquet for his relatives.
On the second day, the program was much more diverse.
First, Fatme's parents gave a banquet for her relatives at a restaurant near their house. The guests led by a blue flag danced to the accompaniment of cymbals and drums. They sent the gifts to the newlyweds and some of them pinned the cash gifts on the clothes of the bride and bridegroom.
The most interesting part of the wedding is the custom called "Gelina."
At the bride's house, several women smeared the face of Fatme with white face-cream and decorated her head with colorful sequins. Fatme's sister-in-law took off all the headdress that the bride needs from the cousin of the bridegroom.
Then the cosmeticians garlanded the bride with pink flowers and put the red glittering headband on the hair of Fatme. The last step is to put the argentous strips in front of the face of the bride.
The whole making-up process last about two hours, during which the bride closed her eyes. The bride saw her face through a purple mirror with the pattern of a heart on it.
No one can tell what the special bride makeup symbolizes and why the fingers of the bride should be painted red. The cosmeticians only told Xinhua it was the wedding tradition of Ribnovo which were passed from generation to generation.
As for the tradition of being dressed up as "white bride," there is a legend in the village.
A long time ago, boys in Ribnovo went with their parents to herd the sheep every day, and there is little chance for them to get along with the girls.
The parents hope the bridegroom can learn to cherish his wife and treat her tenderly through the process of uncovering the sequins on her face piece by piece.
There are also other explanations for the tradition. Some say it is related to their religious ritual, while others say the white cover with the colorful sequins can bless the bride with a safe life.
Bashev said that two years ago, before the economic crisis, 30 to 40 weddings were held per year in Ribnovo but the number dropped to about 10 recently.
Although in recent years, some local people of Ribnovo went to work as builders in Bansko, a tourist city near the village and some went to work in Greece or Spain, many young men still choose to follow the traditional wedding customs. However, some girls in the village prefer a modern wedding ceremony.
No one knows how long the tradition of "Gelina" will last. But local people believe that if you see the wedding with your own eyes and try to feel it yourself, you will be inspired by the deeper meaning of the life miracle.
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