Thursday, May 12, 2011

Marriage among the Tinkers of Thrace

"The NY Times reports on the evolution of the market for brides among Bulgarian Roma: Subtle Shift at the Gypsy Bride Market

"STARA ZAGORA, BULGARIA — In a field outside town, teenage girls in skimpy outfits worked the crowd at what is known locally as the “Gypsy bride market.” Clad by contrast in long velvet skirts and brightly colored headscarves, their proud mothers watched. Gold flashed on necks, fingers, ears and teeth.

"Meet the tinkers of Thrace, semi-nomadic Roma who in the early 21st century are among the few in Europe hewing to ancient ways.
"Technically, the young women at this traditional St. Todor’s Day “market” were not for sale. But it is at this fair, held each year on the first Saturday of Orthodox Christian Lent, that the Kalaidzhi (as the estimated 18,000 Thracian tinkers are known) conduct the complex negotiations on a bride price that traditionally lead to marriage.

"The identity of this semi-nomadic Roma group is based on the ancient craft of its menfolk: producing and repairing pots, pans and caldrons. For centuries, these smiths have scattered in ones or twos in Bulgarian villages to practice this craft, and they get together rarely for events like the St. Todor’s fair.

"This is therefore one of the few opportunities for teenagers to meet other Kalaidzhi — and potential spouses. Dating is not really an option when teenage boys and girls are forbidden to meet without an adult. Marriage outside the group is equally taboo.

"Leaning against his car, surveying the scene, Hristos Georgiev, 18, was pleased to be wrapping up negotiations with the father of Donka Dimitrova, an 18-year-old he expected to marry weeks later. Bargaining had narrowed to between 10,000 and 15,000 levs, or $7,500 to $11,300, well more than a year’s worth of the average Bulgarian’s wages of 8,400 levs. He said he saved the money working construction in Cyprus.

"According to Velcho Krustev, an ethnographer with the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, “the man is not buying a wife, but her virginity.” The payment ensures the bride will be treated well by her new family, he said.
"Kalaidzhi are among the most tradition-bound of Roma. But even they are changing — to the distaste of elders like Ivan Kolev, 73.

"While he insisted the bride price would stay — “our people always insist that a girl be a virgin” — he noted that Kalaidzhi women “were much shyer” when he married some 50 years ago. “Now they just elope. Now they go around like Bulgarians.”


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JadeDragon said...

Really interesting story on bride price. Thanks

african girl said...

I like your post because it talks about marriage. Well as we all know marriage is a sacred thing but why is it that nowadays some people is no longer valuing this stuff. In connection to this why is it that some people tend to do the premarital sex which is supposedly it should be done after marriage?

I hope that this kind of immoral things will be stopped! Marriage plays an important role of our lives.