When Turkish women get married, they have a special party called a Henna party.
Living in Turkey gave us the unique opportunity to make lots of friends, mostly from work. That, in turn, afforded us a view into the daily life, personal milestones, and how they are celebrated. My friend Çakal was getting married, and of course she was going to have a bridal party. In Turkey, brides are wished good luck at her henna night. We had so much fun at our first Turkish henna party.
At A Turkish Wedding – Henna Tattoos for All!
In Turkey, the typical “bridal” shower is a “Kına Gecesi,” which literally means “henna evening.” Only women attend henna parties, although these days, some men sneak in towards the end of the evening when the party is in full swing. Traditionally the henna party was thrown the very last night before the girl is married and taken away from her family, and it served as a sad going away party. Today, however, if a bride even chooses to have a henna party it is a mix of the traditional and modern.
The bride’s female relatives, and the bridegroom’s female relatives get together and sing, dance, give gifts of money, and of course hold the henna ceremony. The bridegroom’s mother must press gold or money into the bride’s hand when she receives her henna. Today this is usually a coin that will represent more money to come later.
As with other updated traditions, In the past it was the bride’s family that hosted the event and it would last all night until the groom came to pick her up on a white horse. Now, as with other updated and modernized traditions, it is usually held at a public event center and is fully catered.
The color of kina (henna) is red, so the bride wears red, or at the very least has a red veil and red mittens. At the Turkish henna party I attended, the bride’s dress was bought specifically for the event and the veil and mittens were the same lace as the trim of her dress.
The Turkish henna ceremony begins with a song and all of the women dancing in a circle with the bride sitting in the center. A close friend or relative prepares the henna tray which is usually silver or covered in lace, has a lit candle, and a pile of moist henna piled in the middle.
At a Turkish henna ceremony, the henna is dispatched in blobs. First the bride’s mother-in-law-to-be presses the coin in her hand, then her own mother covers that with henna and binds her hands in mittens to preserve the “holy soil.” The rest of the participants then receive their henna, with a blob in the middle of their hands.
The henna stays on the skin for about 20-30 minutes, then you wash it off and it lasts for about a week to ten days. At my friend’s party, she also provided a henna artist to paint designs on all who wanted as a party favor.
After the ceremony, there was much eating, singing, and dancing. It is said that this is one of the nights that the older “sisters” or wisewomen impart much of their age-old advice, and I’m sure that is so, but there is also just a whole lot of partying going on.
Henna can be bought all over Turkey at any market or dry-goods store by the kilo. It looks like a green powder, and of course turns brick red when wet and applied. Many women still dye their hair with henna as well. Today, you will see colorful metallic packets filled with henna given out as party favors at other special occasions as well. Henna makes a fantastic Turkish souvenir or gift, because it’s so rooted in tradition, yet is still used all across the country on a daily basis.
To read more about Turkish traditional henna parties you can go here.
Have you been to a Turkish henna party? If so, tell us all about it in the comment section below.
Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.