wedding whirlwind tour

I just got back to Nepal after a whirlwind two-week trip back to the US for my brother’s wedding.  The 80+ hours spent in airplanes and airports was well worth the fabulous visit with my friends in San Francisco and the wonderful family time and wedding celebrations in Virginia.

In the spirit of my brother’s wedding, I thought I would do a post about weddings—both American and Nepali.  I am definitely more of an expert on American weddings (I guess I am at the age where everyone I know is getting married—I should be the star of the sequel to the movie 27 Dresses), but I will do my best to show to the similarities and differences based on my experiences as a guest at both.

Back in December I was able to go to a good friend’s cousin’s wedding here in Nepal.  His family is Newar, which is an ethnic group here in Nepal that is mainly in the Kathmandu Valley.  Weddings in Nepal are celebrated over several days with different ceremonies and parties.  This is similar in America if you add up all the events leading up to the wedding, but in general, people see the wedding celebration as the one big day.

Much like in America, family members and close friends are in attendance at Nepali weddings, but unlike in America, the guest list is not as strict and friends of friends of friends are often times in the crowd as well.  I guess that explains how I was able to go to a wedding of someone I have never met before!

At the wedding in Nepal, I only attended one of the celebration events; whereas, for my brother’s wedding I was able to attend all of the events leading up to the big day; including the bachelorette party, bbq at my parent’s house and the rehearsal/rehearsal dinner.

Hawaiian themed bbq at my parents house

I can’t say what all weddings in Nepal are like, but at this particular one, it almost felt like I was in a crowd of paparazzi.  The small room was crammed with as many people that could fit; everyone standing on chairs so they could see, with a camera in hand.

the Nepali wedding paparazzi

The guests at my brother’s wedding were a bit more organized (sitting in a large church with pews probably makes that easier) but after the wedding everyone crowded outside to watch the bride and groom exit (our version of the “paparazzi”).

the American wedding paparazzi

At my brother’s wedding, we had only one videographer (which the position was kindly filled by my friend and “date” for the day, Megan), but at the wedding in Kathmandu, there were at least 3.

the many videographers

Of course, one of the things I love about weddings is the fashion—which of course is different in both countries.

The dress (both in everyday life and at weddings) is the most similar between the two countries for men.  At the Nepali wedding his suit had the added the flair of a wedding topi (hat) and ceremonial pieces.  Of course when it comes to the bride, there lies the most differences.  In Nepal, the traditional wedding color for women is red.  The bride had similar ceremonial accessories as well as glass bangles and the traditional wedding beads.

 At my brother’s wedding, he wore a tradional tux, which was accented by a flower boutineer.  As we all know, the wedding color for brides in America is white and traditionally a veil is worn and a bouquet is carried.   My sister-in-law went for simple and elegant pearls as her jewelry.

At both weddings, family participated in the event.

In Nepal, they participated by making offerings and participating in the rituals.

And at my brother’s wedding, we were half the wedding party (bridesmaids, junior bridesmaid, flower girl, groomsmen, ushers, ring bearers, singer).

In both countries, weddings come down to this:

Celebrating with family and loved ones (and of course, getting to wear beautiful clothes while you do it).

holi moley!

Wow!  Time really does get away from you!  I thought I posted this like 3 weeks ago, and apparently it didn’t happen.  And to top it off, I had written everything out, and like 80% of it has disappeared into the deep abyss of the world wide web.  So, for the sake of sanity, here is a (somewhat) condensed version.

Back in March was the celebration of Holi in Nepal.  Holi is a religious festival in the spring, where on the main day people throw colored powder and water on each other as a sort of game.  Along with this, there are also people on rooftops and decks pouring buckets of water on passersby and children hiding behind gates launching (homemade: read plastic bags) water balloons at you.  The whole day is about everyone having fun and there is very little traffic (many things are closed as it is a national holiday), so there are people “playing” Holi everywhere.  In Nepal this year, it was on the day of the full moon (extra craziness! though i think it may always be on the full moon).

Here’s a description of Holi in Nepal from wikipedia:

“In Nepal, Holi is regarded as one of the greatest festivals, as important as Dashain (also known as Dussehra in India) and Tihar or Dipawali (also known asDiwali in India). Since more than 80% of people in Nepal are Hindus, Holi, along with many other Hindu festivals, is celebrated in Nepal as a national festival and almost everyone celebrates it regardless of their religion, e.g., even Muslims celebrate it. Christians may also join in, although since Holi falls during Lent, many would not join in the festivities. The day of Holi is also a national holiday in Nepal.

People walk down their neighbourhoods to celebrate Holi by exchanging colours and spraying coloured water on one another. A popular activity is the throwing of water balloons at one another, sometimes called lola (meaning water balloon). Also a lot of people mix bhang in their drinks and food, as also done during Shivaratri. It is believed that the combination of different colours played at this festival take all the sorrow away and make life itself more colourful.:

Chris and I headed out from my apartment in Lazimpat with no particular plan in mind (other than that we were going to end up at the movie theater to watch the new Nepalese film, Sick City).  As soon as we walked into the courtyard of my building, the didis of my building got us.  And by got us, I mean, a giant bucket of red water was poured on us as we exited the compound.

In my neighborhood, it wasn’t too bad.  A few water balloons here, a hand print there.  As you can see, by the time we got out to the main street, it was still pretty tame:

the first bit of color
the hand print!

After my neighborhood, we headed down to Thamel, which is where the craziness really began.  The streets were filled with tourists and Nepali (mainly teenage) guys.

Chris getting his first big covering of color
the action in Thamel

After Thamel we made our way through the narrow alley streets towards Indra Chowk and then Durbar Square.  During this part of the walk, there were people on rooftops pouring huge buckets of water on all the passersby (this, was where i discovered all the women were, avoiding the mess) and on the streets were many more people ready to cover you with color.

women on the roof dumping water

When we finally made it to Durbar Square, there were a lot more people, but in many ways, a lot more calm.  With all of the police and military around, nobody was randomly attacking anyone with color.  You could actually stand in peace and just watch what was going on.  We certainly didn’t need anymore color added to our bodies at that point!

the end of the crazy color fighting
the crowd in Durbar Square

After Durbar Square, we finally made our way over to the mall to watch the movie.  Apparently, on Holi, the mall is where you go to avoid all things color.   We were the ONLY people in the entire place that had any bit of color on us.  We got lots of stares, laughs and acknowledgements.  The funniest part about this long Holi trek to the theater?  We went to the wrong one and they weren’t even playing our movie.  So we saw Battle Los Angeles instead…definitely not something I would have paid to see in the US.

We had a really great time throughout the day and while I was able to get the color out of my hair and off my skin, the clothing I was wearing that day is definitely still rangi changi (Nepali for colorful).  I think that maybe this whole experience is inspiration for having one really, fun, colorful collection (for any of you who have seen my last collection, it would definitely be a change of pace!)

holi moley!

Almost three weeks ago was the celebration of Holi in Nepal.  Holi is a religious festival in the spring, where on the main day people throw colored powder and water on each other as a sort of game.  Along with this, there are also people on rooftops and decks pouring buckets of water on passersby and children hiding behind gates launching (homemade) water balloons at you.  The whole day is about everyone having fun and there is very little traffic (many things are closed as it is a national holiday), so there are people “playing” Holi everywhere.  I believe this festival is usually on or around the full moon.  In Nepal this year, it was on the day of the full moon (extra craziness!).

Here’s a description of Holi in Nepal from wikipedia:

“In Nepal, Holi is regarded as one of the greatest festivals, as important as Dashain (also known as Dussehra in India) and Tihar or Dipawali (also known asDiwali in India). Since more than 80% of people in Nepal are Hindus, Holi, along with many other Hindu festivals, is celebrated in Nepal as a national festival and almost everyone celebrates it regardless of their religion, e.g., even Muslims celebrate it. Christians may also join in, although since Holi falls during Lent, many would not join in the festivities. The day of Holi is also a national holiday in Nepal.

People walk down their neighbourhoods to celebrate Holi by exchanging colours and spraying coloured water on one another. A popular activity is the throwing of water balloons at one another, sometimes called lola (meaning water balloon). Also a lot of people mix bhang in their drinks and food, as also done during Shivaratri. It is believed that the combination of different colours played at this festival take all the sorrow away and make life itself more colourful.:

Chris and I headed out from my apartment in Lazimpat with no particular plan in mind (other than that we were going to end up at the movie theater to watch the new Nepalese film, Sick City).  As soon as we walk into the courtyard of my building, the didis of my building got us: a giant bucket of red water was poured on us from the roof as we exited the compound.  As we walked down the alley that is my street we were bombarded with little kids throwing their homemade water balloons at us.  It usually went something like this: giggling coming from somewhere in the vicinity, child runs up within close range, pelts a water balloon at one of us, and immediately runs off to hide.  Even some adults were doing this.  My street was pretty tame with the color, until we got to the end when a group of teenage boys came up and put some colored powder on our faces and even a hand print on my back.

the first bit of color
the hand print!

We decided to walk through Thamel and down through Durbar Square on our way to the movie theater.  In Thamel there was extra craziness.  It was all local teenage boys (got some complaints about their actions, but that’s for another time) and tourists throwing color and approaching people and putting handprints of colored powder on each others’ faces.  This was where the color really started to come out.

Chris getting his first big covering of color

We stopped for breakfast at the Yak Restaurant, and right outside there were people on the rooftops dumping buckets and bowls and anything they could find filled with water on the passersby (mind you, most of these people were local women, who didn’t want to be a part of the “on ground” action).  It was quite entertaining watching everyone go by and get dumped on; lost a bit of its  novelty when we had to exit.

women on the roof dumping water

From Thamel we proceeded to Durbar Square and by the time we got there we were both completely covered in color.  We thought that Durbar Square was going to be even crazier.  In some ways it was, and in some ways it was a welcome calm.  There were tons of people everywhere with singers performing.  However, because of the presence of guards and police, there wasn’t any random crazy color fighting going on.  You could actually stand around in peace.  Which, by this time, I was glad to have a little bit of.

the end of the crazy color fighting
the crowd in Durbar Square

After Durbar Square we headed on to the movie theater.  This was the weirdest part of the day.  It seems the movie theater is where people went to AVOID Holi.  We were the only people that had any color on us and we got plenty of stares.  Even though we didn’t get to see the movie we wanted to see (turns out we trekked all the way across town to the WRONG theater), it was still a nice way to end the color and water filled walk and day.

We thought the day was over when we headed back to my apartment at dusk and everything seemed to quiet down.  However, when it got dark and the full moon came out, we could hear the sounds of craziness from the streets.  I guess the full moon keeps the party going!

All in all, Holi was a lot of fun.  It was great to participate and see what it was all about and it was really great to see it for inspiration (the colors, the playfulness).

the festival(s) of lights

About a week ago, my friend Ben, had us all over to his apartment for a Hanukkah party.  We had latkes, wine and lit the menorah for the Jewish festival of lights (we were there for the third night of the holiday).

The latkes were homemade (slaved over for hours by Ben), the wine was questionably “semi-sweet” (you take what you can get here), and the menorah was makeshift (candles stuck to the top of shelves), and the celebration was great (that’s what gathering with friends is all about).

About a month before this, I was also able to celebrate the Festival of Lights here in Nepal, Tihar (also called Dewali or Depawali).  This is a five day festival here in Nepal that celebrates the Goddess Laxmi (the Goddess of Wealth) and has a different puja each day (they even have a day where people give puja to their dogs).  The whole city is lit up for 5 days with candles and Christmas lights and people are setting off happy bombs (fireworks), singing and celebrating all night.  It kind of felt like a combination of the 4th of July, Christmas and New Years all wrapped up into one festival.  Which, to sum it up, pretty much means that it was awesome.

Check out this link for a more in depth description of the holiday.

I got to spend the 5th day, Bhai Tikka Day (Brother Tikka Day) with some of my Nepali friends and their families.  I felt very lucky to have been invited into their homes and had a really great time spending the holiday with them.  Brother Tikka day is the day of brothers and sisters.  Sisters give brothers tikka to ensure their long lives and thank them for the protection they give and gifts are exchanged.  It seems it is usually gifts from the sisters and money from the brothers (even here, men don’t quite know what to buy for women!).

Both of my friends did this as family affairs, with aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents.  If boys didn’t have sisters, they had their girl cousins do the tikka for them.  And of course, following the tikka, there was plenty of really good, home-cooked Nepali food (and even a little rakshi to go around).

To add even more celebration to the day, it was also the Newari New Year and as I was driving from one friend’s house to the other, I passed the parade of Newari boys on trucks singing and celebrating that as well.

Family.  Food.  Tikka.  Lights.  Fireworks.  What else could you ask for in celebrating a holiday?

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photos (c) Bethany Meuleners