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MANNERS AND CUSTOMS OF KANTLAX

These are some remembrances from the years before the turn of this century about life in Kantlax, a little coastal village in Munsala, 24 km. from Nykarleby.

ENGAGEMENT

When the young men and maidens decided to get married and establish a family, it was an important step that involved a number of customs that have since been abandoned or changed. On their engagement day they prepared for a journey to the city. The horse was equipped with bridal reins which the young maiden had made. She carded and spun the wool, dyed and twisted the yarn. There was a large tassel which was either red or blue. When the festively clad couple sat in the cart ready to go to the city, some shots were fired. The men from the farms in the girl's home area stood along the road and gave a salute. Arriving in the city, the young couple did some shopping. First and foremost, they bought a ring and usually a silver brooch and material for the bridal dress and coat, sash and bridal shawl, and shoes for the bride. On their return home there was another shotgun salute to the engaged couple.

The fiancé, together with his future father-in-law, went to the parsonage to take out the banns. This trip became the occasion for a lively firing of shots during the trip through the village. At homes along the way, men hurried out when they heard the shots, loading their guns to take part in the congratulations. The vehicle stopped for a moment, congratulations were offered along with an invitation to stop for a sip of schnapps. On the return trip through the village, the scene was repeated with rifles and pistols, and a stop for another sip of schnapps.

When the banns were read for the first time, they were usually in the fiancée's home. The male guests went outside to shoot their guns. The women guests brought gifts such as a half dozen plates. The men usually put some money in a toddy glass. There was always dancing. Along with the food there was schnapps, coffee and lemonade for the guests.

On the third Sunday that the banns were read, the fiancée, accompanied by her mother, visited the fiancé at his home and presented items of clothing to the family members. The mother of the house was given white wool garters, a blouse, and night shirt. The father of the house was given a shirt and white wool suspenders. The prospective brothers- and sisters-in-law received a shirt or blouse and everyone else received a handkerchief. The articles of clothing exhibited the fiancée's skill in handwork and were made with great care. She neatly embroidered the receiver's initials in cross-stitch on each item.

Then all were bidden by the fiancée to partake of biscuits and cheese. In the evening the young people went out into the yard to dance.

WEDDING

The wedding banquet required a lot of preparation. Several hundred guests were invited and, as a rule, the banquet lasted two days. It is thought the the wedding invitation card was first used in Kantlax in 1903. People were also invited in the old manner with the bride and groom traveling around from village to village, seeking out friends and relatives.

In the wedding hall the walls were covered with sheets and the ceiling was covered with fringed sheets. Numerous large mirrors, that were borrowed from village homes, hung on the walls. The ceiling was the bride's heaven under which the ceremony was performed. The bridal heaven usually was a red flowered silk shawl with a fringe. Flowers were fastened in the corners of the shawl and in the middle of the shawl a small green silk handkerchief was fastened. The bride wore a crown that was full of gleaming, fluttering spirals of brass. Her clothing was adorned with a sash with the tied end of the bow hanging down to the skirt hem on her left side. The groom's adornment was a brilliant paper flower with brass spirals. Similar flowers were also worn by the bridesmaid and groomsman, and by other guests at the ceremony.

Up until the first decade of the 1900's, schnapps was served at some weddings. As soon as the guests arrived at the bridal yard, they were invited to eat and later, as more guests arrived, they wandered around with a 4-liter bucket of schnapps, inviting everyone to partake. During meal time bowls of schnapps were also on the table. Bragging, yelling, and fiery disputes could be heard here and there, especially in the small hours of the morning. Many a wife had to coax her husbnd to get him home to a much needed rest.

Immediately after the ceremony, one congratulated and drank a toast to the bridal couple, which at that time was a new practice. They were toasted with wine or lemonade and the following skål song:

"Now we drink the bride's toast,

Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah!

Skål to those who drink!

The bride's toast we drink,

Hurrah, hurrah, the toast was good!

Hurray, hurrah, hurrah!"

The song was repeated several times, substituting the "bride" with "bridegroom", "mother-in-law", etc.

Drinking at weddings ended very soon. An energetic opponent to them was the parish pastor, Gustaf von Essen. The first "dry" wedding in the village was 1903.

One would think that a large wedding would be extremely expensive, but it was not. It depended to a large extent on the guests giving a monetary contribution. Up until the 1900's guests, on 3 different occasions during the ceremony, gave money to the bridal pair. At noon on the wedding day, as soon as the guests finished eating, the bride's dish went around the tables and everyone gave, according to his means, a sum of money. After that the alms plate was passed and the people placed a coin for the village needy. Each time someone danced with the bride, it was customary to smuggle a coin to her, at least 25-50 pennis or more. Also, people who stopped by in the evening to see the bride were expected to do the same. They took a drink and had a dance with the bride.

For large parties, as well as weddings and funerals, people had to borrow items from other houses such as wooden spoons, wooden pots and plates. The spoons had a hole in the handle and were kept threaded on a string in a big bundle. A special collection was taken to replace any of the items that were broken or discarded.

At the end of the second day all the guests gave "sleep money". The collection of this went toward anything that was smashed during the celebration. Two or three comically dressed man wandered early in the morning through the village with a money pail and a schnapps jug and sought out wedding guests everywhere. They orated and sang, rattled and clattered the money pail and demanded a tribute from the guests, who often also sang. Steinhus-Ant, one of the solicitors, used to sing:

"Give a coin to this old man,

Merciful sir.

My wife is sick,

Eight children have I,

How can I, on the brink of ruin,

Be ashamed to beg of you a coin?"

And when the guests came to the wedding yard, these old men stood along the way and attacked those who had escaped the morning visit. Usually they gave a mark per couple, or a lone woman paid 25-50 pennis.

After that the dancing began with the youths swinging around. At the beginning of the century, the practice of the bride accepting money from those who danced with her was discontinued as being crass. Instead, the men tried, unobserved, to press paper money as a dismissal gift into the bride's hand when leaving. But many found it embarrassing to take any financial compensation from the wedding guests. Therefore the "sleep money" and the dismissal gift disappeared from the wedding celebration.

Then weddings began to be held in the church, a custom that is still prevalent. It later years it has become customary to have the ceremony in the parsonage, followed by an invitation to the closest relatives to go to the bride's home.

MATERNITY

Often an experienced country woman from the village assisted at childbirth instead of a midwife. At that period of time babies were always wrapped in swaddling clothes. They were placed in a cradle, and when the child was able to sit, they were placed in a hanging swing; these items are no longer used.

Friends came to visit the new mother and brought a milk pail, or butter tub, filled with rice pudding, also some cheese, coffee bread, pancakes, raisin soup or hand-made baby clothes. The new mother usually sent back some tasty tidbit to the donor's children. Sometimes a small child followed his mother when she went to visit the newborn. It was a visit that was rewarded - they were treated to good things - but when they returned home they were paddled with a stick for not staying home.

Much has changed during the last 40 years, but the buildings are the same and the mentality and way of life are as they were before. They have left their impression in the clusters of farms. But one day new changes will be a reality and will bring about a disintegration of the rural areas. Then dawns a new time in the old villages.

By Vald. Nyblom in "Den Österbottniska Byn"

June Pelo

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