Sunday, February 22, 2009


The shivaree, or charivari (a French word meaning “a noisy mock serenade for newlyweds” and probably deriving in turn from a Late Latin word meaning “headache”), dates at least as far back as the middle ages in Western Europe and has a long history in many parts of North America including the Midwest, Ontario, Quebec, New England and the Maritimes.

Young men of the community mark a marriage - especially a marriage considered suspect or unsuitable - by creating an improvised ruckus on pots and pans under the window of the bridal chamber. In the true spirit of a shivaree, our old hero is kept awake all night with noisy pots and pans by those who disapprove of his quest to marry the young girl.

My only encounter with this phenomenom was while I was in high school and a neighbour's daughter was getting married. The newlyweds home was not ready for a month, so after the wedding they planned to live with the in-laws. The local young folk got wind and a Shivaree was planned for a summer Friday evening, the plan being to keep the couple awake all night during their arrival home from the wedding festivities.

While I lived in the country, we did not own a farm, so I stood at the end of our driveway after dark with a tire iron and a metal lid from our garbage can, waiting for my best buddy to pick me up.

Soon I could hear him coming down the sideroad with no muffler on their oldest tractor and towing a hay wagon for all the folks to ride on to the event. I hopped on the tractor with him and enjoyed the ride, bumpy and noisey that it was. We picked up about 10 people with various forms of noisemakers including a trumpet, disc and wrenches, firecrackers, shotguns, cowbells etc.

The evening turned out to be much fun and a great community gathering on the neighbours laneway and lawn. The most fun coming when we took the four straw bales on the wagon and stuffed the straw into the grooms unlocked cab of his truck.

Did I mention that most attendees seem to have brought along liquid fortification in case it got cold and someone brought the coffee urn from the town hall with a large plate of ham sandwiches.

Some folks did actually stay all night...