You’ve all probably seen henna tattoos. It’s become very popular in the last couple of years as more and more celebrities are getting henna designs painted all over their bodies. Although this practice is moving into the mainstream, it is an ancient art that has been around for thousands and thousands of years. It is, in fact, a cultural tradition that spans many different countries and religions. The designs are beautiful and very trendy but also have deep symbolic meanings that go along with them! So what do henna tattoos symbolize? The designs represent hope, stability, honesty, chastity, purity, love, desire, beauty, fertility, and much more. A lot of brides have a “henna night” a couple of days before their wedding. This practice is mostly seen in Muslim or Hindu celebrations symbolizing joy, happiness and unity.
There’s also a myth behind why brides get henna tattoos right before their wedding. A longstanding belief is that the deeper the colour of the paste gets on the bride’s hands and feet, the stronger the bride’s bond with her in-laws. In traditional muslim and hindu cultures, the bride goes to live with her in-laws once she gets married and is responsible for a lot of the house work. Having henna on your hands and feet automatically exempts you from doing household chores until the paste disappears into dust. During this time, the bride is pampered, all of her wishes are respected and what she says goes, always. By this standard, if the colour of the bride’s henna is deep, it means it will last much longer and give her time to build honest relationships with her in-laws therefore strengthening their bond.
As stated above, henna represents joy and happiness and many brides have a henna night before their wedding. A lot of the designs used on brides are of birds, flowers, and paisley. Flowers are very popular henna designs used in wedding celebrations to represent personal growth and the new beginnings. Birds represent love, success and beauty. Paisley is one of the most common bridal designs and symbolizes fertility and luck.
At my friend’s henna night, there was a lot of dancing. The bride and groom sat at a sweetheart table at the very front of the reception hall. The sweetheart table was decorated beautifully with lots of pink, gold, and blue. They had traditional Afghani music playing. The dancefloor was full, with guests dressed in salwar kameez’s that were beautiful and intricate.
All the guests wore traditional Afghan clothing called Salwar Kameez and the bride came out in an extravagant red and gold gown. These types of outfits are also seen in many different cultures specifically in Indian cultures and some countries in the Middle East.
The night was very different than any pre-wedding celebration that I have seen before but it was very interesting and fun to learn about what other cultures do and the types of celebratory traditions they have when a bride and groom gets married!