On Saturday, September 22nd we were very happy to be a part of the Send Off for Paulina, the daughter of Bwana Stephen from Irente Church. We have written before about the custom of a “Send Off” party for girls who will soon be married. This is an old Tanzanian custom, which has grown over the years. In the past, we were told, the custom was to bring together all of the bride’s family to bid her farewell and offer her advice of how to behave in her upcoming marriage. The family would also present her with some gifts to start her married life.
Now, send off’s rival wedding receptions. Where money permits, they are held in beautifully decorated halls with an MC and DJ. The bride-to-be and her maid of honor are dressed in very fancy prom-style gowns with elaborate hair styles. The community of the bride’s parents contribute to the cost of the party, which can be very expensive.
Part of the celebration includes having a band escort the bride-to-be as she travels to the party. Tom was asked if he would help with this part. So, on Saturday morning we traveled with our friend Eric to Bwana Stephen’s house to be part of the procession.
When we arrived at the house, many people were there, along with a six piece band. Many women were dancing and singing along with the music. Some were dressed in their colorful kangas and others in gowns.
First, we were invited to have something to eat at Bwana Alfred’s home next door. The sitting room was filled with many male guests (the women were eating together outside). After the meal, we went back to join the rest of the guests. When the call came that Paulina was ready at the beauty parlor, we got into our pick-up with Alfred, Eric and Mr Jackson. The band got into the back of the truck and started to play. There were two trumpets, a trombone, a baritone horn, a snare and a bass drum. We drove down to the center of Lushoto with the band playing all the way. As we passed, people came from their houses or fields to wave and dance.
In Lushoto, we waited outside the beauty parlor with the car that would carry Paulina and her maid of honor. The beauty parlor is right next to the bus station. Many busses arrived and left as we waited. When everyone was ready we left, escorting the car which was decorated with purple and gold ribbons. We drove back to Stephen’s house with the band playing many hymns that we could recognize. We heard “It Is Well With My Soul” and “When the Saints Go Marching In” along with others.
When back at Stephen’s house Bishop Munga arrived. Stephen’s family including Paulina’s grandparents all joined the bishop on the sofas and chairs that had been brought out into the front yard. The bishop offered prayer and blessed Paulina and her family. Then it was back into the cars and truck to travel to the hall for the party. First in the procession were two motorcycles (called piki piki’s here), then our truck with the band, followed by Paulina and then the rest of the family and guests.
The hall was decorated beautifully and the music was wonderful. Paulina received many gifts to start her married life. A difference at this send off was the amount of gifts given to Paulina’s parents. Gift giving here is done by dancing your present, unwrapped, to the front in a conga line. We were told that the parents of the bride receive many gifts if they have done a good job raising their daughter. Paulina must be a remarkable young woman, judging by the gifts given to her parents and grandparents.
We felt so blessed to be included in this celebration. We have been welcomed and accepted as a part of this congregation and community.