CUSTOMS & TRADITIONS
The cosmopolitan Seychellois are a colourful blend of peoples of different races, cultures and religions. At different times in its history, people of African, European and Asian origin have come to Seychelles, bringing with them their distinct traditions and customs and contributing to the way of life and to the vibrant Seychellois culture.
Through the passing of time, the old age customs and traditions of Seychelles have slowly faded into the background, such as men weaving coconut leaves to make ’kapatya‘ baskets as a symbol of their worthiness to be married. But as more modern age influences take their place, many Governmental and Non-Governmental Organisations take the initiative to organise events where senior members of society teach the young about the slowly disappearing ways of dance and courtship in the old days.
Love and Marriage
In colonial times it was forbidden for a young woman of fair skin to fall in love and marry a young man of dark skin. Marriages where either pre arranged by the parents, or the man had to meet the parents to see if they accept him for their daughter.
A traditional wedding in Seychelles was a thing of great extravagance. Everything began with a courtship ritual that was very unique to the Seychelles.
Firstly men began by writing a love letter to the parents of the Girl he wished to marry, within which he expressed his deep passion for her. he argued his worthiness by explaining his character, what he did, what he would do to ensure the material upkeep of the girl, how many children he would have with her etc.
After the parents have accepted the letter, courtship began with the man weaving a coconut basket called a ’Kapatya‘ and bringing this to the Girls house filled with various Fruits and Vegetables, as an offering to the parents. This was also a test, as a strong ’Kapatya‘ proved to the parents that the man was a hard worker and good with his hands, he wouls therefore be able to provide for his future wife.
The Young man and woman were only able to meet with eachother in the presence of the girls parents, at their home, it was during this time that they got to know eachother.
Each demonstrated their love for eachother by engaging in a teasing game called ’Roul pomme d‘amour‘. Meaning that the man took a red tomato ’also known as a love apple‘ and rolled it across a table to the young woman, this meant he loved her, and if she rolled it back to him, it meant that she loved him back.
On the wedding day, for those fortunate to be able to afford transportation, a car was decorated with Frangipani flowers and ribbons, others rented a ’pous pous‘. The bride wore a white dress, even if she was old or if she had been living with her companion for some time and already had children. If it was the latter, the children would be the men and/or maids of honour. Often an arc was erected using palm leaves and decorated with flowers, the guests then followed the couple through this, accompanied by a band playing the wedding march using instruments such as guitars, violins, banjos, triangles and drums.
After the couple left the church, they were serenated along the street, followed by their guests and a musical band.
At the wedding party, everyone celebrated by drinking, singing and dancing, and as an adherence to tradition, the oldest women in the celebration sang old sentimental songs such as ’Ma Fille, ma fille cherie‘, in high pitched voices, and seldom cried tears of joy.
After having thanked and kissed all the guests, the couple left the celebration, which continued in their absence until the following morning. Traditionally, the Sunday following the couples return home from Honeymoon, would lead to another party, but today this is no longer practised.
Other more supersticious customs have also disappeared but come back in bizarre circumstances. The fact remains, that despite being a modern Seychelles, as the saying goes ’old habits die hard‘.
- Young Children were passed over the dead bodies of relatives, especially deceased parents, so as to prevent the spirits from haunting the child.
- Salt and/or lentils were thrown on the graves of the deceased so as to prevent their spirit from haunting the living.
- Children who told lies would place a flower of the ’Zepi ble‘ plant under the tongue and throw it behind their back so that the parents would not discover their lie.
- Children playing outside were warned not to run around the house 7 times after 6pm, as this would wake bad spirits.
- When young men and women wanted to meet in secret, they would take the flower of a plant called ’La Barbe St.Andre‘ and place this under their parents chair where they were sitting, and this would make them fall asleep.
- Children who did not want to go to school would place a clove of garlic under their arm, and this would bring about a fever.
- To get long hair, parents would cut a lock of their daughters hair and place it in the trunk of a banana tree.
- Parents gave children Holy water to drink and told them that if they had lied this would make their bellies grow bigger and bigger.