For as long as I can remember I have loved parties, celebrations, get-togethers, bashes, shindigs (you get the idea) and, in particular, the ones that celebrate a special occasion.
Celebrating our wedding anniversary every year has become its own tradition. And whether it was organic or intentional, our anniversary tradition has become intertwined with travel. So for our 25th, we had a private Maasai blessing/renewal of vows ceremony while on our first luxury safari in Africa. We decided on the perfect place to stay in the Maasai Mara — Angama Mara — and our ideas were already percolating about how we could create some special moments to mark our anniversary.
When we arrived at the lodge, the manager quickly and efficiently (so as to not take any time away from our safari activities) went over the timing details of the ceremony with us. There really was nothing we had to do but show up! Having planned my two weddings and reception, it was a welcomed switch to let someone else do the planning.
Precisely at 3:45 pm (as I had been told), three lovely Maasai ladies (Elizabeth, and her daughters Mary and Margaret) came to our room to help me dress in the tailor-made traditional blouse, skirt and cape. While I marvelled at the exquisite patterns and beading and the Maasai craftsmanship, the ladies quickly got to work. Much giggling ensued as we tucked and cinched, making sure everything fit just so. Next, they adorned me with the joyously colourful and beautifully beaded necklace and bracelets that had been made just for me. And then, as the final touch, slowly, carefully, and if I may say, affectionately, they secured the headpiece.
There was a momentary silence, and we were suspended in its stillness. I was transported back with my family and friends on the morning of my wedding, being helped into my langa, bangles being slipped gently over my mehndi-decorated hands, and a gold tikka tenderly affixed in my hair to lie shimmering on my forehead. Elizabeth sighed softly and murmured, “You look beautiful”, before turning to Mary, “I remember when we did this for you.”
In that moment, we were bound together through our shared memories and traditions. It was only natural that hugs followed. I barely had a chance to say, “Thank you”, before Margaret excitedly grabbed my hand to pull me along, “Come on, let’s go!”
In a flurry of organised activity with that palpable pre-celebration excitement, we were whisked off in a safari vehicle to the ceremony site. As I stepped down from the jeep and looked up, my breath caught. “Majestic”, “Beautiful”, “Humbling”, were the words that came to mind as we were greeted by the two Maasai elders and the large group of warriors and maidens, draped in magnificent Maasai red, fanned out in a semi-circle. A deep rhythmic sound began as the group began to sing and escort us to where the ceremony would be performed. Smiling at each other, holding hands, my husband and I glided along. There was such joy in me at this moment. Margaret had kept close and perhaps she felt some of my energy. She took my hand as we began walking.
“Are you nervous?” she asked. “No”, I gushed, “I’m just so happy right now.” Her grin, I am certain, matched my own.
We had only been walking for a few minutes when I felt a few rain drops, absolutely nothing to even blink at. Or so I thought. Immediately, the singing ceased. The group stopped walking. Maasai words were being spoken rapidly. There was an undeniable sense of elation. Margaret was nearly jubilant. “What’s going on?” I asked her.
“Oh, but this is wonderful! You are blessed, you are blessed!”
And then she explained that the Maasai consider rain on your wedding day to be a sign of immense blessings. Just in that moment, the rain turned into a light shower. Umbrellas miraculously appeared. More excitement followed. The showers came, sprinkled their blessings and after having done their duty, went merrily on their way after only a brief moment. The singing resumed and on we walked (possibly with even more buoyancy) to arrive moments later at the ceremony site.
The Boma couldn’t have been more perfect, with its circular shape capturing the dramatic views overlooking the Maasai Mara. As we stood facing each other, my husband and I exchanged quiet words of love and of gratitude for these 25 amazing years and all the ones yet to come. I tried my hardest not to, but, yes, I sniffled (I kept it under control because as you know runny mascara just looks terrible). We kissed and applause erupted.
We were then asked to be seated as it was now time for the blessing. While I could not understand the words being said, I felt a blissful joy and a sense of peace as the Maasai elder gave the blessings, gently placing his hand on my shoulder and then my husband’s. The elder then asked one of the warriors to translate — there was one final honour we were being given. The elder decided to give us Maasai names. I was named “Nolari”, which means “to celebrate a life event while being blessed by showers” and my husband was given “Olyamanuk”, which was my name, “Lucky”, in Maa. How do I even capture the swirling emotions at that moment? I just can’t. Suffice it to say that no matter how hard I batted my eyelashes, some water leaked through.
As I reflect back, there is that familiarity again. Of customs and rituals. Of receiving blessings from priests and elders at our wedding ceremonies, surrounded by our family and friends, all while experiencing that rollercoaster of emotions.
And here is one of those life’s funny things that sometimes make you pause — it had rained momentarily on the morning of our wedding on the way to the Sikh ceremony — a sign that is seen as good luck for a marriage in the Indian culture…
The distinctive pop of the champagne cork signalled that it was time for the celebrations to begin. We clinked our glasses, sipping some bubbly while receiving congratulatory cheers from all. We, in turn, expressed our humble gratitude to our Maasai hosts for the honour of having them share their culture and customs. A brief hush fell over the group when the elder responded, “That you would come from so far, across the ocean, just to have the Maasai bless you…this is an honour for us."
This post was edited for this blog, but if you would like to read the full story, please visit Lucky Kalsi's lovely blog.
Filed under: Inside Angama
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