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Beyond the Veil: Anthropological Reflections on a Wedding Ceremony

Last weekend, I traveled to a nearby city to attend the wedding of a close friend. The party was incredible, held in a beautiful house, lovely decorations with lush nature all around. As an anthropologist, I can't help but look at these ritualistic moments and observe peoples attitudes towards something so important.

The wedding itself was emotional and beautiful. The bride's entrance ceremony, the guests'excitement, the couple's vows, and atmosphere of camaraderie among those present demonstrated an intimacy and genuine happiness for the union of the two. Everything was absolutely harmonious, sincere, and enjoyable for everyone there celebrating the moment.

This event reminded me of the rites of passage we study in anthropology. At one point, I mentioned this to my friend, and one of his friends ask me why a wedding would be considered a rite of passage.

This is perfectly understandable, as cultural and ritualistic processes in all cultures do not follow anthropological categories; on the contrary, we anthropologists follow sociocultural phenomena and constantly rest our categories, creating new ones if necessary. The dynamism of social life and the processes of reproduction and transformation of various sociocultural aspects are stronger than any systematization.

In China, for example, traditions are constantly activated in various sectors of society. Especially young people recognize significant elements of their history (whether the history of the country or of their ethnic group, one of the 56 that make up China) and reproduce these elements that refer to an origin are important for maintaining current social life.

This "traditionalism" is also reflected in wedding ceremonies. Even though "Western-style" weddings are becoming more popular, many couples still choose to have a traditional ceremony, especially using red, with has long been a significant color in China.

Of course, there is a counterpoint to this "maintenance of traditions". In the popular imagination, what is traditional represents a faithful reproduction of a crystallized past. However, in terms of cultural dynamics, this "reproduction" is always contemporary; that is, there is no faithful reproductions of the past as if we had entered a time machine, but a revision of the past and a reinterpretation of these elements based on a present-day perspective. This is probably why we always see this "recalled past" as something that makes sens today.

Some elements are reinterpreted today and activated as "traditions" but others are not. This "selections" often imperceptible to people who reproduce these elements of the past, happens mainly because we are beings of this time and not that time. The nostalgia that underpins the elements we bring from the past to the present was not part of the people of that time; for them, their clothing, practices, and rituals represented the normalcy of their time. They were certainly nostalgic bout other things.

In short, the weekend was excellent. Everything went smoothly, and my intuition - or anthropological perception - about possible changes in Brazilian wedding traditions was correct. I had spent the entire previous week in doubt about what attire to wear.

In the end, I learned that there are times when participant observation is not as effective, or at least not as much as simply participating in the party and allowing oneself to experience the moment.

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