Henna Bandoon :: Hannabandoon :: Hennabandoon :: Hanna Bandun :: Hennabandun
The Henna Ceremony, an age old pre-wedding tradition, has various names and presentations in spelling, including but certainly not limited to, Henna Bandoon, Hannbandoon, Hennabandoon, Hanna Bandun and Hennabandun, by popular accounts. Similar to its many names, the tradition of the Henna Ceremony bears a strata of meanings in its overall practice and form among different cultures, and sometimes even within a single culture. The history of the Henna Bandoon extends far into the past, into the ancient villages of Iran and many Middle Eastern nations, and while it seems to have lost its popularity somewhat over time, it still bears deep meaning in practice and preservation of a fun cultural tradition. It may take place a few days before the wedding or more modernly as a small part of the wedding “morning-of” festivities. A look at the unique nuances and meanings behind the elements of this Modern Day Henna Ceremony preceding an Armenian-Persian wedding, will hopefully revive the symbolic ancient practice and give modern day brides, particularly those living in the Diaspora, a thread of commonality and foundation back to their roots.
Featured above is a list of the components most commonly seen in modern-day Henna Bandoons. Each element above is named in both Armenian and English, with its corresponding representative meaning listed.
Henna, was and still is symbolic of beautification and a marker of beauty. Many cultures share the use of Henna to display intricate patterned-decorations on the body, most commonly on the palms. Another common use of Henna for beautification is for application to the hair to achieve depth in color. In the case of the Henna Bandoon, Henna is housed and displayed in a paste form in jeweled container and applied by the mother of the groom into the bride-to-be’s inner palm, as a sign that she is the beauty of their choosing. Modern day applications of the henna tend to be streamlined in design and often times more of a symbolic dot.
SANGAK:: BREAD:: WHEAT
Sangak, is a popular type of a Iranian wheat bread often topped with sesame seeds. With deep Middle Eastern roots, it is often selected for inclusion in Henna Bandoon ceremonies for its beautiful colorings and as a marker of prosperity. This traditional wheat bread is typically shaped into a rectangular shape and baked using hot gravel stones. This makes it easy to rework into pretty shapes, sometimes hearts or flowers or petals, both in its dough form and after it has already been baked. Bread in general and sprouts of wheat have taken on the role of prosperity in the Henna Ceremony, in the sense that the couple to be married will never go hungry and will have ample prosperity in the symbolic fulfillment of their appetites.
For Armenians, the pomegranate is one of the most recognizable symbols of the country and a staple in Armenian households and recipes. The Pomegranate represents bounty, an offering on behalf of the bridegroom and the bride-to-be as they prepare to embark on their journey together. Henna spreads may display fresh seasonal pomegranates in their solid form, or as individual seedlings or even sometimes stylized with crystals and glitter. In the display below, in addition to the real platter of ruby red pomegranates, Armenian wine in shape of a Pomegranate bottle is beautifully showcased.
NUTS:: WALNUTS:: ALMONDS
The inclusion of nuts in any form or shape is very important to the Henna Ceremony, as well as most Armenian sweets tablescapes, as they are not only a cultural delight, but allusive of fertility. Common types of nuts used in this ceremony are Hazelnuts, Walnuts and Almonds. As far as the presentation, displays truly vary. Sometimes they are washed and peeled and stacked in beautiful trays along side other sweets and treats. Other times, candied forms of nuts are used to beautify objects such as jewelry boxes and decorative pieces. In the pictures below, there are towers of Walnut and Almond Trees grounding the table in the form of tall cones.
Halva is an Armenian delicacy, a flour or tahini-based dessert, that may be molded into various shapes and seasoned with a variety of additives, including pistachios, saffron and rose water. Halva represents generosity and is not only displayed at the Henna Bandoon table, but also passed around to guests in attendance to thank them for coming and a gesture of that same munificence. A staple during this tray passing of Halva and other traditional sweets to the guests in attendance is cognac to warm the palette and further welcome them to the home.
MONEY:: GOLD SEKKEH
Perhaps the most obvious symbolism as part of the Henna Ceremony is the inclusion of money representing wealth. Wishing the happy couple to be a life of riches so that in said union, they avoid the struggles and stresses of going without. Money can be incorporated in endless unique presentations and often, Henna displays include more than one style. Pretty paper money flowers in the shape of delicate roses are a special touch and are made based on the same disciplines as origami. Gold coins, known as Sekkeh, are also incorporated by Persian Armenians into the spread. Also, a common practice upon the conclusion of the ceremony and just before seeing the church-bound couple off to get married, is to shower the happy couple with music, dancing and tons of DOLLAR BILLS! Its a literal showering of money. Often times, the bride and groom alike are also showered with gifts including precious jewelry in celebration of wealth in life and love.
Raw honey personifies the natural pleasures in life and in the union of marriage. Its sweet natural form and its golden undertones lends itself as the perfect companion to the rest of the elements in the Henna Bandoon ceremony. Typically, during the henna ceremony, the bridegroom and bride-to-be simultaneously dip a fingertip into the honey, displayed in a festive bowl, and taste to sweeten their palette with the pleasures of marital unification.
The symbolism of nabat and other Middle Eastern sweets are transparent in their blessings to the bridegroom and the bride-to-be in the sweetness of their future together. Nabat is a type of crystallized rock candy and the endless options for Middle Eastern treats needs no introduction! Both are pretty to look at and even sweeter to taste and the absolute epitome of the sweetness to envelop the happy couple embarking on a new journey together.
As with any culture, candles are charged with deep-seated meaning, inward-looking emotion and piety. Similar to other passions, the breadth of candles infuse oneness and harmony conveying an inner sense of unity between the soon to be married couple. The Henna Ceremony may incorporate decorative candles with elaborate details, crystals, jems and jewels, and often become statement pieces all on their own, given the choice of candelabra or candlestick.
I encourage you to drop a line and share your own Henna Bandoon experiences with me. I’d love to hear from you.