Turkish Henna Night: An Ottoman hen night
It’s a bit like in 1001 Arabian nights. Strolling across a red carpet, past golden oriental columns, I walk up a stairway to the hall. On the dance floor, beautiful Muslim women are dancing to Turkish/Arabic music with the dazzlingly beautiful bride-to-be in the middle.
Behind the parquet, there are seating rows with women and mothers with children having lively conversation. There are only women attending the party. Except for the henna ceremony, the groom is allowed to join. The hall is gorgeously decorated in an oriental style. Everything is kept in red and golden shades. The colour red symbolises fertility and stands for a loving tender relationship, many children and prosperity.
At a separate table further away in a corner, Bilge Yurttas, a Henna Artist, is painting fantastically beautiful Henna tattoos. She is working exclusively with natural products and is stirring the Henna paste all by herself. One can see already many women with pretty mandala paintings on their hands, arms and backs.
At the entrance of the hall a delicious buffet table is set up in the meantime. It’s a tradition that women bring tasty homemade food. From savoury Lahmacun, Pide up to many variants of Börek as well as many mediterranean salads like for example, Kısır, a Turkish version of Bulgur, it’s all arranged and lined up. There is suddenly a vibrant hustle and bustle at the entrance of the hall as the guests start moving towards the buffet table. It tastes very good. Afterwards, there are delicious assortment of desserts: Kadayif (Angelhair), Baklava, Helva (semolina pudding), Cupavci (croatian coconut squares) and many different cakes.
Later on, the main event comes: The Henna ceremony
At the entrance of the hall a parade appears being led by two women in traditional red garments with golden embroideries, drumming and moving towards the dance floor, followed by the sister of the bride-to-be. She is also clad in a red golden garment carrying a red golden velveteen tray with burning candles and freshly made henna paste. Behind her, the bride-to-be who has now changed her dress to an evening gown and wearing a bordeaux-red veil is being accompanied by the bridegroom dressed elegantly in a suit and tie. They are followed by ten Turkish women, all of them also dressed in traditional red golden garments and braided hair bands. In the right palm of their hands they carry a candle. The bride and groom sit down on an oriental looking golden stool covered with red velveteen which is now placed in the middle of the dance floor. Auntie Uschi who is representing groom’s mother-in-law, is seated on a red cushion next to the groom on the floor. The company of women are singing and dancing around the bride and groom to traditional slow music. Traditionally, slow melancholic music is played to make the bride cry as she gives up her bachelorette-life. But she had a preference for slow traditional music rather than melancholic tunes. As auntie Uschi tries to put a golden lira coin, in the hand of the bride as a present, the bride is making a bit of a fuss for everyone’s enjoyment until accepting the present finally. Another lady comes forward with the freshly made henna paste and applies it on the palm of the bride’s hand as well as on the little finger of the groom. The lady applying the henna paste is personally chosen by the bride. Traditionally, a happily married woman, having a harmonious marriage should perform the ceremony as her happiness will be transferred to the bridal couple. The bride has chosen her henna lady because she was the oldest and a very close friend of her mother’s. Such a nice tradition!
Then the Takı ceremony takes place: Many guests present gifts to the bride-to-be. In the past it was used to support the family of the groom. Afterwards there is a photo-session. Everyone wants pictures to share memories. Then the groom leaves and the party continues. The magnificient Djane Tülay is playing happy Turkish music again and they are dancing until late at night. The bride is surrounded by her Turkish, German, Polish, Croatish and Greek friends who celebrate with a wild but feminine enthusiasm. Before leaving, everyone receives a Lokumluk, a Lokum vessel filled with henna powder, a lovely present in memory of a very special evening.