One of the things I am loving about South African culture is the hospitality of events! Weddings, funerals, tombstones unveilings and church confirmations are so common here and every weekend I find myself attending at least one of these parties. Back in the States, you probably would never think to attend a wedding or a funeral if you hadn’t been personally invited or didn’t know the hosts at all. Here in South Africa, all parties are community events- if you see a big tent and hear music, it’s totally acceptable to walk right in and help yourself to some food, drinks and dancing.
Some important points about events:
Weddings: Most South African weddings will be 2-day events: 1 day being the traditional wedding and 1 day being the Western “white wedding”.
Funerals: Not your typical all-black and crying event that we see back in the States. Funerals here are much more lively and are meant to celebrate the life of the deceased, sing their praises and wish them a smooth passage into heaven.
Tombstone Unveilings: Families will invest a lot of money in a big, fancy headstone for the grave of a loved one that passed on a long time ago. Usually around the 10 year anniversary of someone’s death, and the family will celebrate by purchasing a custom designed headstone to dress up the burial site. Everyone first goes to the cemetery for the official unveiling, chanting and prayer, then migrate back to the house to party for the rest of the day.
Church Confirmations: Youth who regularly attend church and are part of a church group will have their own confirmation party. The significance of this party is to define the transition from childhood into teenage years.
At these social gatherings, everybody is dressed nicely, the music is blasting and people everywhere are dancing. At first it felt slightly awkward to be attending a wedding where I didn’t know the bride or groom- this is so against the American culture of weddings. I explained this to my Host Mother and she helped me get more comfortable with it, she always knows who’s events we are attending and I was impressed by the way we were showered with party provisions and constantly being waited on. Eventually I surrendered to the culture and now look forward to every event we attend. 🙂
Not only are these festivities big social events, but they also offer interesting opportunities to network and rub shoulders with important people from all around South Africa. I’ve met TV stars, important political figures, and often times I am offered opportunities to assist with projects or facilitate trainings. I’ve gotten numerous marriage proposals from local village chiefs. One woman who is the first wife to the chief praised my nubility said she wants me to marry him too! Haha! It’s common (and somewhat expected) for chiefs to have multiple wives. (Soooo weird.) I always demurely decline.
These events are quintessential of the benevolence of rural South Africa and are a beautiful reminder of the importance of community celebration. I’m having so much fun partaking in the merriment of festive season!