Sisterhood Blog

The Friendly Competition That Is the Wedding Hora

By Allison Gaudet Yarrow

  • Print
  • Share Share
Click for larger view

I spent my New Years Eve at friends’ nuptials in Richmond, Va. After the glass was crushed, and guests were bussed from synagogue to reception hall, the band played the song that sets Jewish wedding receptions apart from others. My husband and I, and the two other Jewish couples at the table leapt up like they were offering free Flip cams at the front of the room. I love to hora because it brings wedding guest-factions together like nothing else. I’ve clutched plenty of strangers’ sweaty palms in the name of hava nagila, and have later found myself with new friends.

I feared our people’s celebratory dance as a kid, since it felt dominated by adults in sharp heels (I once nearly lost a toe). Now, I’m likely the heeled crazy-woman that kids are running from. This New Years Eve hora was composed of mostly adults, as the first circle confidently formed. I hadn’t gotten there in time to join it, and our outer circle was a slower to manifest itself, but it got moving. Guests sang, locked elbows, hooted and crooned southern-inflected Hebrew. The jazz trumpeter looked exhausted by the end of the first round of Uru achim b’lev sameach, but he was a sport so he kept blowing.

Chairs appeared, primed for the big lift.

Up went the bride and the groom looking happy and beautiful, and holding on tight. Parents followed. When I nudged a male friend next to me, suggesting he help catapult one of the fathers, he refused. He’d threw out his back hoisting his thin sister at her wedding, and it had scared him from beneath the chair. Fair enough. This was a traditional hora, and a tame one, but what struck me was the conversation at our table afterward.

Five relatively newly married couples poked at the salads placed on our 60-inch round, and took turns describing our own horas — proudly recounting the way we’d danced them at our own weddings. One newbie groom claimed his tradition fueled a war of the sexes version where men lined up on one side, and women crowded the other, cat-calling and challenging each other to a dancing duel. A new bride (not his) claimed her dress was big enough to need its own chair.

My own hora got going later in the evening than the one at this wedding, and was (at least by my memory) a bit rowdier because guests had by that point gulped more drinks. After my husband and I came down from the chairs, the mothers went up together, and subsequently, up went the fathers. They are fit men, my father, the former professional baseball player who lifts weights, and swims laps, and my father-in-law the professor who frequents the elliptical machine in his basement. But the men launching my father-in-law in the sky tired before the group lifting my dad, who was so not ready to come down yet. Upon his descent, my new father-in-law’s head crashed into my dad’s lap. A first in hora history, perhaps.

We couldn’t help but juxtapose horas, each husband and wife internally determining how the one we just danced stacked up. Even sweeter was the chance to share it with a couple at the table that was at their first Jewish wedding. They had never done a hora before.

A lapsed Baptist friend from Alabama told me that she wants one at her wedding. Lenore Skenazy recently traced the muddled origins of the famed chair lift in the Forward’s pages. And in the South, where I’m from, it’s often difficult to feel enrobed in Judaism, but sometimes all it takes is a little dance floor craziness to feel culturally, Jewishly at home.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Wedding, Marriage, Chair Lift, Hora, Hava Nagila

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.