What is the purpose of the custom of a bridal henna, and what is its source? As a child I was told that it's for good luck, but I wonder if that would be permitted.

(I have a personal theory, which I a have not confirmed. I remember being told that Henna was used as a dye for hair. Perhaps, the bride's hair was dyed as a way of beautifying her for the wedding. It may have started as a happy gathering of women which developed into a ceremony.)

  • It is my understanding that this is not a widespread Jewish custom, although I have heard of individual Jews who have done it. – ezra Aug 2 '17 at 20:22
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    @ezra It's quite widespread in Mizrahi communities, particularly Moroccans IINM – Double AA Aug 2 '17 at 20:27
  • @DoubleAA - Cool! Do you have some sort of web page where I could read more about the custom? Come to think of it every couple I've heard of who's done it they've been Sephardi. – ezra Aug 2 '17 at 20:28
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    I heard from a friend it was because חנ"ה is an acronym for חלה נידה הדלקת נרות but needs to be verified – TrustMeI'mARabbi Aug 2 '17 at 23:02
  • non jews also make this – kouty Aug 3 '17 at 14:41

This article seems to provide good information on the ritual. Excerpts:

Henna use, both for everyday adornment and for ritual purposes, quickly spread throughout the Diaspora and was an established custom among the Jews of Morocco and other North African communities, the Levant and Mediterranean basin, the Arabian Peninsula, and Western, Central and Southern Asia.

In these communities, henna was a crucial aspect of the preparations for a Jewish wedding, and often defined the structure of the wedding festivities, from the beginning (marked by the sending of henna from the groom to the bride) through the climax (the main henna ceremony itself) to the end (when the last remnants of henna wore off the skin). Furthermore, henna was used to mark the actors in a variety of other lifecycle events and passage rituals, such as birth, weaning, entering the school system, puberty, and coming out of mourning. It was also used at holiday celebrations and other happy occasions. The symbolism of henna in these Jewish communities was highly polysemous, but it is clear that it had three overarching functions: first, the henna’s staining of skin was seen as beautifying, both as daily adornment and for weddings; second, the materiality of henna was thought as protective, especially of actors at the center of a passage ritual; third, henna was seen as an aid in transforming and guiding the actors into the structure of their new social roles.

One of my friend's daughters had a henna ceremony last year. Unfortunately, because I was in mourning, then, I couldn't attend, but I would have been curious to see what this was. I guess there must be some video on YouTube or some other web site.


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