NEW YORK FOLKLORE
Vol. 4, Nos. 1-4, 1978
OLD-FASHIONED POLISH WEDDINGS IN UTICA, NEW YORK
Susan G. Davis
In the Polish-American communities of Utica, the wedding is
remembered as a central musical and expressive event. People are
wont to say “Anything Polish is a big deal, but a Polish wedding—anything
after that is a letdown!” The old-fashioned wedding, or
wesele, was a festive occasion, a time for playing music and singing
“old country” songs; the feasting and dancing lasted for days. For
residents of Utica aged fifty and older, this family and community
event serves as a symbol of intense kin ties and ethnic group
While marriage was a rite of passage in which cultural values
were affirmed by the participation of kin and community, the
wesele continued to be a major social event. Changes such as intermarriage
with other ethnic groups, movement by the young people
out of the old neighborhoods and into the suburbs, and the cost of
bands and rented halls have made the old wesele a thing of
memory. Yet it remains vivid in the reminiscences of Polish-Americans.
The wesele is an example of an urban folk tradition which has
been more than a cultural survival. The series of Polish-American
wedding rituals, and the songs and music associated with them,
have changed and adapted in Utica because they have had meaning
for this relatively cohesive ethnic group. The composite description
which follows applies to weseles in the Utica area during
the period from 1900 until World War II. The customs and rituals
described here were practiced by the early twentieth-century
immigrants from Poland and their children, referred to as the first
and second generation, respectively. To some extent these traditions
are kept today by those who feel it is important to maintain
them, but the changes in the urban context have changed the
wesele’s meaning. It is interesting to note that while giving accounts
of the old-fashioned weddings, informants, especially
women, spoke in both the present and past tense, indicating the
vitality of this memory for them. In general, however, the old-fashioned
wedding is perceived as part of the Polish-American
Voices is the membership magazine of the New York Folklore Society. To become a subscriber, join the New York Folklore Society today.
TO PURCHASE A BACK ISSUE of New York Folklore, visit our online book store.
TO PURCHASE THIS ARTICLE from New York Folklore, use the form here.
BACK TO NEW YORK FOLKLORE.
|New York Folklore
PURCHASE A SINGLE ARTICLE
To order a single article, please enter volume number, issue number, and title of the article you wish and click on an order button below to purchase through Paypal or with your credit card. We will send you a PDF of the article via e-mail upon receipt of your order.
|ITEM #603 |
Single Article $3.00
|Member Price $2.00||