Valentine’s Day is coming soon, and in the spirit of love, affection and marriage, we thought we’d share with you some marriage customs in Guatemala.
Henry Orlando, 24, was sponsored through Unbound from 1996 to 2008, when he graduated as an agricultural technician. He married Silvia, on Nov. 27, 2010. In this interview, Henry describes the traditions before and during his marriage ceremony.
How did you get engaged?
Silvia and I were engaged for three and a half years. Around Christmas 2009, we decided to get married.
We fixed the date for ìla pedidaî (asking the bride’s parents for her hand in marriage). Our ìpedidaî took place April 1, 2010. Usually an engagement ring is given, but I did not have the means to do so since I am attending the university.
Pictures of the bridal party after the wedding service.
All my family acted as ìtortulerosî ó people who intercede for the groom during the pedida. My mother cooked a turkey, chicken and baskets of bread for my wife’s family as a sign of my commitment.
There is always a feeling of anxiety or fear during the pedida because the bride’s parents may be less than amicable or because they may not like the groom.
During the pedida a time is set aside for ìlos consejosî (advice). I received advice from my wife’s parents.
The custom is to get down on one’s knees in front of the older members of the bride’s family and listen to them offer advice for a good marriage. I had to listen to the advice of eight people.
Generally, the tradition in Patz˙n is to have three such pedida ceremonies, but my wife is from a distant village, so we only had one.
Tell us about the wedding.
The wedding took place in Patz˙n on a Saturday. My wife and her family left early from their village to have breakfast at my aunt’s house. Typically, they are served tamales and French bread.
My wife’s family arrived in Patz˙n at 6 a.m. The wedding was at 11 a.m. Two buses transported about 150 people and my family’s guests. Approximately 300 people attended.
The ladies in my family dressed Silvia in my home. She walked to church with her family, I walked with my family, and there, the two families met.
Two children carrying pillows with the wedding rings enter first. Another child carries the ìarrasî ó 13 coins the groom offers the bride after the ring ceremony so God may give them abundance and well-being. The bride and groom enter next. Two children hold up the veil.
After we were married, the best man and matron of honor put over our shoulders a cord to symbolize our union as a couple.
A private lawyer married us at Silvia’s house in a civil wedding one month before the religious wedding.
What does the bride wear? The bridegroom?
Two Unbound projects explain the Three Kings Day celebrations taking place on Jan. 6:
In most parts of Mexico, they believe that the Three Kings, or the Magi, traditionally Melchor, Gaspar and Baltazar, visit the homes at dawn on Jan. 6 to leave gifts for children who have behaved well throughout the year.
Children write letters to the Magi asking for the toys they would like. This tradition is based on the Biblical passage where the three kings brought the child Jesus gold, incense and myrrh (Matthew 2:11).
Children in Cuernavaca, Mexico, wait to partake of the traditional Rosca de Reyes, or Kings Cake, a bread with sugar and crystallized fruit.
Days before Jan. 6, parents buy gifts and hide them from the children so they are surprised and believe the kings brought the gifts.
On Jan. 6, the children wake up early, impatient and thrilled to find the gifts left for them. The children play with their toys all day long with their siblings and friends.
Families, offices, schools, neighbors, friends, in short, everyone partakes of the traditional Rosca de Reyes, or Kings Cake, which is a bread in the shape of a ring decorated with sugar and crystallized fruit.
Various small plastic dolls about an inch and a half long are hidden inside to represent the baby Jesus.
Each person cuts his or her own piece of cake, and those who find a doll inside must bring tamales to everyone present on Feb. 2, the day when Mexican families bring the statue of baby Jesus to the church for a blessing.
According to the Bible, that is the day when Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the temple.
This tradition is practiced primarily in urban and suburban communities, because families in rural areas do not have the economic means to do so.
-Written and edited by: Daniel Luna, Alicia Garza Ramos and Angelica Lozada at the Unbound project in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Martha Meireles, Cuernavaca project coordinator, sent us this report.
The celebration of Three Kings Day is one of the biggest traditions in the Dominican Republic.
The celebration starts Jan. 4 when children write letters for the three kings describing the gifts they want and put them in Christmas trees, on beds or give them to their parents.
On Jan. 5 in the afternoon, children find grass, water and food, and place them under their beds for the camels and wise men to eat and drink and eat when they visit at night.
On this day, children go to bed earlier than usual. Once the children are asleep, parents place the gifts under their bed or at the Christmas tree and take the food away to let the children know the three kings visited them.
At dawn, you can hear in the street whistles, laughter and the sound of bikes, children running and playing with their toys after opening the gifts.
The celebration is extended to the community because the children visit their neighbors to show them their gifts, and the neighbors usually give them other gifts left for them by the wise men.
This tradition turns a normal day into a magical day and offers an unforgettable memory that will last all their lives.
This beautiful tradition is full of faith and love holding a magical world of fantasies uniting families and communities.
-Nelson Figueroa, Unbound project coordinator in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, sent us this report.
We asked Unbound communication liaisons to describe how they celebrated the New Year in their countries. Here are three reports:
In my beautiful country Guatemala, New Year’s celebrations are prepared with great joy, and our customs and traditions give this year-end feast a special touch.
Traditionally, we receive the New Year with a delicious Guatemalan tamale on the table, prepared from corn, chicken or pork, salty or sweet with grapes and raisins, and also a hot cup of fruit punch or traditional hot chocolate.
We all enjoy dinner as a family waiting for midnight. And then … young and old enter the streets to illuminate the night sky with firecrackers and fireworks.
The tremendous noise announcing the New Year is heard across the whole country.
Beside our Christmas tree and next to the nativity scene, locally called “El Nacimiento,” we say a family prayer.
It all ends with strong hugs and often with tears of joy and emotion. -Luis Cocon
Fireworks lighting up the skies, cheers and ululations, cars honking; this is how Kenyans usher in the New Year.
On New Year’s Eve, young and old throng entertainment spots to sing, dance and drink. The towns are usually alive with activity, and music is heard from miles away.
When the long-awaited hour approaches, a countdown starts. As the clock strikes midnight, the crowd goes into a frenzy as people scream at the top of their voices and toast the New Year.
However, not everyone goes to entertainment spots. Some opt to go to evening church vigils where they sing, praise God and listen to preaching.
As the hour approaches, the faithful pray for a fruitful year filled with God’s blessings.†When midnight strikes, praise songs fill the places of worship as the New Year is dedicated to God.
Whether in churches or entertainment spots, Kenya ushers in the New Year in style.
Kenyans are a jovial lot and wherever they are, laughter fills the air as a new chapter is opened.-Regina Mburu
The celebration of New Year’s Eve, or Noche Vieja (old night), is big in El Salvador.
Families welcome the New Year with food, cumbia, merengue or salsa music, fire crackers and fireworks, as well as unique midnight ceremonies.
Before midnight, hundreds of families buy what is locally called “Estreno,” or brand-new clothing.
We have a tradition of buying brand-new outfits to be worn at night to welcome the New Year, to attract new and positive things all year long.
Streets are full of people at night; neighbors visit neighbors, share food and dance a little.
Children and teenagers usually spend most of the night popping firecrackers or fireworks.
As midnight approaches, some people prepare unique ceremonies. One is the egg ritual, where people break an egg one minute before midnight, dump it in a glass with water and let it sit as the year changes.
The egg yolk mutates into various forms, and people try to interpret them as trips, houses, etc., a sign of things to come in the New Year.
At midnight, everybody is outside. Family members hug one another; there are tears and laughs; the phone rings with calls from relatives in other countries to wish the family a Happy New Year; and neighbors embrace, offering peace and best wishes.
One hour into the New Year, streets are empty.
The distant sound of a few firecrackers reminds you that the New Year has arrived and that we must do our best to make it a really good one.-Henry Flores
Las Posadas is a Christmas tradition celebrated throughout Latin America commemorating the arduous journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. Each evening from Dec. 16 ñ Dec. 24, CFCA sponsored members and their families from the community of Santa Teresita, Guatemala, hold a candlelit procession to a different home. They sing songs, pray and end the evening enjoying traditional food and refreshments, such as tamales and fruit punch.