Zimbabwe embraces Christianity but many people including Christians continue to practice elements of their traditional religions. In this regard, November is a distinct month. Almost nothing happens during this month culturally. Marriages, weddings and other ceremonies or rituals are avoided during the month.
Just as every society has its own traditions, in Zimbabwe, particularly among Shona traditions, getting married in the month of November is taboo. They believe that holding weddings around that time brings bad luck.
A bride in Harare told the BBC, “November weddings are a big no-no… I would have had a November wedding but I think my parents would have a problem with a November wedding. My parents would have had a heart attack. My grandparents would not have attended.”
Another Zimbabwean indicated that he and his bride-to-be had to hastily organize their marriage before getting to the month of November because “nothing can be done in November.”
So why the curse of November marriages?
Cultural experts say that the tradition of shelving marriages in November arose in order not to disturb the ancestors or as a tactic to ensure that people remained in the fields during what is the planting season in November.
“Our elders normally use what we call scare tactics to prohibit. They will tell you don’t sit on the road, you will have blisters on your buttocks,” lecturer and cultural expert professor Claude Marareke told BBC. “November is normally very busy in terms of agriculture and farming. Organizing marriage negotiations was known to take sometimes a week, two weeks, ad therefore it was a way of saying to people well, let’s not engage in these activities during this busy time.”
“It was also a time when the gods, ancestors were busy blessing the land with rains and so on and we needed to be quiet to let the gods and the ancestors do their work. And very few people questioned these belief systems.”
Thomas Phiri of Harare also told Herald that he grew up hearing from his elders that certain rites that are important in life are not held in November. He said there are some curses associated with the month and he never believed it until he experienced the curses after having defied the beliefs that are associated with November.
Some couples have however been brave enough to marry in November and have said that the decision has not brought them any bad luck. Many such couples were able to get services at a discount.
Note that the “curse of November” does affect wedding service providers and planners as they can go through that month without any booking. They are sometimes forced to take prices down to attract the few including foreign couples who choose November.
“Everything is at a discount,” wedding planner Jane Rushinga told Herald. “If we were manufacturers, we would be at 10 percent capacity for the month. If you are lucky you pick some parties to help you make ends meet. But it happens every year so we have learnt to plan for it. I give most of my staff leave in this month and expect them to put in a lot of overtime for December.”