On Saturday I attended an introduction ceremony for Juliet’s “sister”. I had originally thought it was her actual sister and later found out that it was actually her cousin whom she calls her sister. That is a very common thing here in Uganda to refer to all of your cousins as your brothers and sisters. In fact, as she was introducing me to her family members, I noticed she had a lot of brothers. So I asked her how many brothers she had. She told me that she only had one actual brother and the rest were her cousins. It’s also common for them to call their aunts their mothers and their uncles their fathers. There are a few reasons that they do this. Partly, because they live in large extended families. So they don’t differentiate between their cousins and their siblings. It can also be because if their parents die it is understood that their aunts and uncles will take care of them like they were their parents. I’m also pretty sure that in most Bantu languages, they don’t have different words for sibling and cousins, as well as aunts and uncles and parents.
Anyway, I initially thought that an introduction ceremony was kind of like a bridal shower, where they introduce the bride. However, I found out that it is actually more like an actual wedding for the bride’s side of the family where the bride is introducing her family to the groom’s family. I was told that most of the bride’s family will not attend the actual wedding ceremony, so for them this is the wedding.
Juliet was in the ceremony because she is a close relative of the bride, so I ended up sitting by myself and therefore I had no one to really explain anything to me. However, even though the entire ceremony was in Lugandan (the groom’s family is from Buganda), I was actually able to figure out a lot of what was going on. So the bride has all of her female relatives in different groups depending on their age. And each group is introduced to the groom’s family. Then the groom’s family gives them all small gifts. At the very end of the ceremony, almost the entire groom’s family got up and left and they each came back with gifts for the bride’s family. The women were all carrying baskets of food on their heads and the men brought in a large bunch of matooke, some chickens, cases of beer, soda and water, and even some furniture (a couch and two chairs). I think this is supposed to represent a dowry.
Overall, I enjoyed the ceremony and I really liked going to Juliet’s village and meeting her entire family. They kept telling me that I needed to come back and visit them sometime. Her village was very close to Mbarara town. Even though it is very close to town, it was somehow still deep in the village, so it was very nice to get to see.