Ten Crazy Courtship Rituals from around the world
10. Night Hunting
Love can make boys do crazy stuff, like sneaking up into a girl’s room in the dead of night—all the while risking arrest or a shotgun to the face by an angry father. For the men of Bhutan, this tradition has been ingrained in their culture for the longest time—a form of courtship known as “night hunting.”
Formally known as “bomena,” night hunting started in the eastern rural areas of Bhutan, and involved a man who would sneak up into a girl’s room and spend the night there. If caught, he would have to either marry the girl or work it off on the girl’s family’s fields. In the worst-case scenario, the man would leave the girl after he impregnated her.
Night hunting continues to be observed today, especially by the eastern folks of Bhutan. To combat this, DNA testing and several laws were put into place to afford women protection. Also, families have now secured their homes with steel locks in order to prevent a hunter from entering. Debates are still ongoing as to the moral and ethical aspects of the practice. Whether night hunting will continue or dies out remains to be seen.
9. Fighting with Pandanus Leaves
People of the Balinese village of Tenganan have taken fighting for love up a notch with their highly ritualized Usaba Sambah Festival. The event, which happens every May, is also a sort of coming-of-age rite for all the unmarried men of the village—and the perfect chance for them to attract the ladies. The men fight inside an arena, armed with the thorny leaves of the pandanus plant, and with only a bamboo shield to protect them. As one might surmise, blood flows freely among the combatants.
Meanwhile, the unmarried girls are usually eagerly watching the action. To ensure they get the best view, the girls are placed on a foot-powered Ferris wheel that stops turning only when all the men have finished fighting—a process that takes several hours. If it’s any consolation to the guy powering the Ferris wheel, sometimes there are zero single ladies in the village.
8. Japanese Matchmaking
For the notoriously self-effacing Japanese, finding a spouse could be a bit troublesome. Thankfully, that problem has been remedied with the time-honored practice of omiai. Although to outsiders omiai means nothing more than an arranged marriage, the practice itself is far more elaborate. Before any meet-ups, the matchmaker conducts a comprehensive background check of the man and woman, as well as their families. An exchange of pictures between the candidates and their families also occurs. The stringent cross-examination ensures that the families are well-suited to each other and also lessens the chances of future conflict.
Omiai started during Japan’s feudal age and was utilized mostly for political alliances. The practice greatly declined after World War II, when the resulting Western influx influenced young Japanese couples to go out on dates. However, the practice of omiai is still used to a large extent by the Japanese, especially those in the upper tier of society. Even major corporations like Mitsubishi have used omiai, mainly to help their employees find a marriage partner.
7. A message wrapped in rice
The girls of the Miao ethnic group in Southwest China have a very unique method of communicating their love. During their Sisters’ Meal Festival in April—which is their equivalent of Valentine’s Day—the girls dress ornately and cook lots of sticky rice in four different colors, with the colors representing the four main seasons of the year. They then give the rice, rolled in a handkerchief, to the suitors who serenaded them.
If the man wants to find out if he has landed a girl, he must unwrap the handkerchief and sift through the rice. If he finds two red chopsticks, then good news: It means the girl likes him back. If it’s only one chopstick, then the girl has politely turned him down. Woe to the man who finds a garlic or chili: It means the girl has just flat-out rejected him. A girl who hasn’t made up her mind will put in a pine needle. That signifies her intention to wait for the man—provided he gives her more gifts.
6. Love Huts
Unthinkable for most prudish fathers is the thought of their precious daughter having to spend the night alone with a suitor. For two ethnic groups, this has been a long-cherished tradition.
Although other parts of Africa practice it, the Zulus are especially noted for their take on the tradition. During the latter stages of the courtship phase, the father of the girl builds a separate hut, where she and her suitor can meet at night. Far from being liberal, the father is actually quite strict in doing this—by building the hut he does not allow the suitor into his home, nor does he acknowledge the courtship. It is only when he asks his daughter to get cattle from her suitor that the father finally recognizes his existence.
Fathers of the Kreung tribe in Cambodia’s northeast areas, on the other hand, are very liberal on that notion. Not only do they build love huts for their daughters, they also encourage them to take in as many boys as they want (sometimes on a single night), until they finally find their true love. While this may sound like a setting for a bad movie, incidences of rape are very low and divorce is virtually non-existent among the people. The Kreung actually value a long-lasting marriage—hence the search through so many suitors.