The Importance of Cultural Tradition
The Palestinians, rightly or wrongly, have been portrayed by the media as a people without a land. When examining the idea of Palestinian traditions, is it important to separate the idea from American traditions where there are many traditions within a single culture, yet are not uniformly recognized. Such is not the case with Palestinian traditions, where culture and tradition meld together. For the people of Palestine, their traditions define the land they live in.
A Reflection of Hospitality and the Value of Family
The greatest tradition that actually is a series of traditions within a tradition is the Palestinian Wedding. In contrast to Western traditions, the wedding begins at the time of engagement of the bride. At this time the groom and several men of honor from the groom’s family go to the bride’s home. With him he will keep another tradition – several trays of Kunafa nabulsiya, a traditional sweet that is stuffed with cheese. Once they arrive and invited in, the wedding plans begin.
Another tradition is for the father of the bride to announce his agreement to the engagement, and pronounce a blessing on the marriage – the same way it was practiced 500 years ago. A sip of coffee is taken as a sign of the agreement.
Once the agreement is made, the next tradition is the engagement party. This is similar to engagement celebrations in cultures across the world. Relatives invite families and close friends, traditional music is played and various types of meals are served. The engagement ceremony can represent the marriage contract, or the contract ceremony can take place at a different time.
The wedding, unlike the engagement party, is a series of traditional events and ceremonies. A total of three events are planned: Henna Day which is restricted to females only, Groom’s Night, which is strictly for males only, and finally the Wedding Night.
Dabka is one of the traditional dances that takes place at the groom’s house.
More traditional families may have a separate wedding ceremonies, one for the bride’s family and one for the groom’s family. In most cases, a Palestinian band is hired to play traditional dance music while wearing traditional Palestinian clothing.
As you can see, there are layers of tradition that define the family culture and speak of the hospitality of Palestinians. Another aspect of Palestinian tradition is found in the home when guests or visitors arrive. Guests will be offered sweet tea during their stay. However, once you are offered coffee, it is an unspoken signal that it is time for the guests to leave.
As a guest, it is traditional that you recognize that refusing any food or drink offered to you is an insult to the host. Tradition dictates that you take the food or drink and give it a taste, then set it on the table. The Western tradition of saying “no, thank you” is considered to be an insult.
Wrapping Up Traditions
It is important to realize that Palestinians traditions are complex, layered and combined in many social situations. Yet in both the general hospitality afforded in the home and at the more formal wedding ceremony, the family is prominent. The importance of these traditions is far greater than most other people’s as they have no permanent land to establish a marker that commemorates any tradition to make it truly Palestine. The traditions reflect the people of Palestine, peripatetic yet never-changing, and yet always finding a place and a time for a celebration.