The Soda Ceremony


Another fun tradition we discovered in this fascinating journey of our daughter marrying a Kenyan man is what I call the Soda Ceremony. The groom’s aunties are required to come for a visit, traditionally the night before the wedding to sort out any remaining matters that may need sorting before the actual ceremony…such things as if the bride’s family need any last minute things, what gifts remain that they should bring, any ‘issues’ they may have that should be sorted that might prevent the bride’s family from ‘unlocking the gate’ and allowing the groom and his family from entering the next day. They also call the bride out and check with her once more too, to be sure she is still going through with the wedding. These days, because of people’s hectic schedules and to avoid too much being planned on the night before, this event now happens anytime during the week before the wedding.

Six of Thuo’s aunties and his mother came the Tuesday evening before the wedding, once again, bearing the obligatory baskets of food gifts…and 4 crates of sodas. We had a meal together (which I hosted), and the chat about making sure matters were settled, as well as confirming with Amanda that she had not changed her mind. They then formally presented their gifts to the bride and her family and more lessos (brightly colored ceremonial cloths) for her aunties. Then came the real fun…the soda ceremony.

The groom’s aunties are required to bring lots of sodas for the bride and all her companions who spend the night before the wedding, with her. So, now the time to formally present these sodas had come. The ladies all went into the kitchen, where the crates had been deposited when our guests first arrived, and each grabbed one end of a crate of soda. They then danced their way into our living room, singing and ululating. I soon noticed an interesting sound accompanying the singing and dancing – a rather pleasant rattling sound in time with the music. I quickly realized these ladies were shaking the crate of sodas and the sound I heard were the bottles rattling against each other and hitting the bottom of the crates. It really did sound nice, a pleasant sort of percussion sound accompanying the singing, but I began to get a bit concerned about the possibility of opening and drinking these sodas! The song finally ended, and the crates were placed in our living room and a couple ladies went off to search for glasses. Uh oh! My rug! My living room furniture!

Soon glasses were procured, and I was asked to sample the sodas to make sure they passed inspection. So, I chose an orange soda. Fortunately for my carpet and furniture, the last crate of sodas had not been shaken much, so there were no geysers as the bottle was opened. I tasted and gave my approval. One of the aunties hinted that just because that soda was fine, I might want to be sure that others were OK too. I took the hint, realizing that I was expected to play out some sort of resistance…all part of the fun. OK, I can do that. So, I said that perhaps the Sprite should also be tested. They approved of the wisdom of this and opened one bottle of Sprite for me to test. “Hmmm. This one seems a bit flat”. Oh, we should try another. So, another bottle was opened for me to approve…black current soda. “This one’s good. But you know, Amanda’s friends plan to stay up much of the night and will probably want caffeine to help them stay awake”. They immediately rushed to the crate for a Coke, which they opened. I had to chuckle when Thuo’s mom whispered as she handed me the glass with a bit of Coke, “this one’s good.” I took the hint and gave my hearty approval of the sodas. They all put on relieved, pleased smiles and we all then enjoyed drinking the sodas which had been opened, before praying and ending the event.

Oh, the subtleties of culture! One has to be really alert to avoid offending and to do things the ‘right’ way. I have been learning to listen and look for clues as to how to respond in these cultural practices and events. This whole wedding preparation has been great fine tuning in listening and observation. Lord, help me to always be alert to ways in which I can minister your love to others…to listen, to watch, and then to speak and act as you lead! My wedding musings coming soon…

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