“La peina”

In Spanish peinar means to “comb your hair”. But “La Peina” is more than that, so much more. It is a tradition that dates from before the Spanish ever set foot in Mexico. La Peina is a party that happens one day before a wedding. It happens at the bride’s house, because the wedding happens at the groom’s house. Traditionally La peina was moment where older women would give advice to the one getting married, comb her hair and dress her for when she sees the groom. In addition to that it is a moment where the groom and his family give the bride’s family “oferendas” or gifts to prove his commitment and love. The gifts include: bread, soda, the wedding dress, flowers for decoration, beans, meat and a giant bird “El Guajolote” (turkey).

I went to a “peina” las weekend and it was one of the best parties I’ve ever been. I went to this house in a village of about 400 people. The house was tiny, but the outside space was huge. The ground was made of dirt and there were sheep, goat, chickens, cows, dogs everywhere. No bathrooms. They had a DJ, huge speakers, a disco globe, tables everywhere and a service that no 1 million dollar-weeding could ever have!

As we arrive at the party the mother of the bride came to salute us, welcome us. We set at one the tables and in 30 seconds the food was served to us. Beans, rice, and mole. Mole is a very traditional dish in Puebla. It is chicken with a sauce made of spices and chocolate. They also bring tamales (a starchy dough, often corn-based, which is steamed or boiled in a leaf wrapper. The wrapping is discarded before eating. Tamales can be further filled with meats, cheese, vegetables, chilies, sweet cream or any preparation according to taste, and both the filling and the cooking liquid may be seasoned.) these ones were made of beans and they were flat! Perfect to eat with Mole, just like a tortilla. After one hour or so the bride and groom arrived. They arrived with their “padrinos” or the people that are contributing to pay for things in the party. Examples – padrino of decoration, padrino of sodas, padrinos of chairs, padrinos of tortillas, padrinos of music. So as this group arrive the start dancing in a circle all holding things that represent what they are contributing with.

Of course the family of the groom invited me to join the dance and hold a basket of bread while dancing in a circle. For half an hour the same song plays over and over as we all dance together with the bride and groom displaying our gifts. After the dance is over the padrinos form a a line to deliver the gifts to the mother and father of the bride. This part is inside the house. I nearly melted with the heat and the amount of people squeezed in the tiny house. When you deliver the gift the mother of the bride says a blessing and we leave the space.

Because over 300 people come to the party, when you are done eating you need to get up and dance so other people that were dancing can eat. Again, the members of the family that help out in the organization of the weeding provide the quickest service I have ever seen. They clean the table, put fresh tortillas, tamales, beans, rice and everything else you want. They always ask you – is there anything else you would like? Then the father of the bride comes to offer you tequila. You got to take it. For dessert – a flan.

Then the party goes until 5 in the morning (it started at 8pm). Tones of dancing – people usually like bachata and banda. They don’t like salsa.

You can eat again, and again and again.  Then the next day at 1pm the wedding celebration at a church happens.

So much fun.

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