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Peasant weddings in Åland

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Peasant weddings are a popular tourist attraction but they require a lot of hard work which is done by about 80 volunteers. Their intention is to show the old Åland culture. The weddings in Jomala are arranged by the community cultural committee and the local village community. Attendance is free. During the year a considerable wardrobe is gathered. Some of it is sewn and the rest is something old they already have. Women from one of Jomala's women's organizations bake 100 Åland pancakes for the guests. The pancakes have always been served with pureed prunes or plums and whipped cream.

In olden days a peasant wedding lasted 3-4 days. After the second World War they lasted two days and presently they last only one day. Until the turn of the century Åland brides, as a rule, dressed in black. The bride wore a tall crown on her head, covered with cut cloth flowers and a wreath of the same flowers around her neck. A painting by Karl Emanuel Jansson of an Åland bride can be seen in Åland's Art Gallery in Mariehamn.

Peasant weddings are celebrated in Björsby's old school, which presently is a community center. The wedding party marches to the school. Four fiddlers walk at the head of the party, followed by the standard bearers, women dressed in Jomala's national costume, carrying 12 different flags. In the olden days, the women took bread poles from the ceiling, wrapped them with paper and red ribbons and hung handwoven tablecloths and sheets as banners on them. A blue silk cloth, held by four poles, is held over the bridal couple. The cloth is a copy of one from 1795 which can be seen in Jomala's church. The flags and blue cloth were to protect the bridal couple from evil forces. A lot of superstition was associated with weddings in earlier times.

The bridal couple was escorted by the priests. The bride's trousseau was carried in the wedding march during olden times. A rich peasant daughter from Jomala would have a lot of things, such as 12 night clothes sewn by her. In addition she would sew quilts and featherbeds, wove sheets and cushions decorated with lace and embroidery. She would also have about 20 tableclothes of different materials and sizes, and at least a dozen towels. There would also be rag rugs, hooked rugs, a spinning wheel and a cow.

In the wedding yard the wedding guests were welcomed by the bridal couple in their turn-of-the century clothing. Later the guests took turns toasting the couple. This year Kristi Kangur and Avo Kaasik were the bridal couple who held a traditional peasant wedding in Jomala. Next year two young people from Jomala's sister community of Pihtla at Ösel plan to celebrate their peasant wedding at Jomala. They had been exchange students in Åland, met there and became engaged. Their wedding will be the first one in which a foreign couple will be married in a traditional ceremony at Jomala.

Translated from Norden Newspaper, 22 July 1999, by June Pelo


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