September 1, 2011

Tradition Rules

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Aleks wore a sajkaca, a hat that is an icon of Serb tradition, and tapered woolen trousers that were tucked into his knitted socks. On his feet were opanci, leather shoes with upturned toes and no laces. Jelena wore a necklace of dukati, large, heavy coins that are family heirlooms and typically part of a dowry. Jelena’s necklace was made of 1900-era coins that had belonged to her grandmother, Vuka. And in celebration, the crowd of 300 (with more than a dozen LMU alumni) danced to trumpet music, a Serbian musical staple, and were joined by the Serbian National Folk Dance Ensemble. A day later, the party, plus trumpet band, went to the groom’s home village, Cacak, for a sumptuous barbecue, a pecenje, and three more days of celebration.

Even before the ceremony, tradition received its due. Men of Jelena’s family negotiated with the men of Aleks’ family over the exchange of money for the bride’s hand in marriage, because barter had been a common nuptial practice in Serbia. Her family argued that Jelena’s “extra degree” — her master’s degree in education from LMU — raised her worth.

And that beautiful little girl in the background, sitting on her father’s shoulders with her hand in his eye? That’s Natasa, the daughter of Jelena’s godfather, and her eyes are filled with dreams.

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