Picture a hen night: all girls dressed in identical, pale dresses, sitting on the grass, flowers in their hair, talking. No bunny ears, no pink drinks, no hunky male strippers. How is it even possible? Magic.
Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, women were the most valued part of the community, carefully guarded from the strangers. They held the secrets to the group’s identity. Celebrations, magic, rituals: they kept a watchful eye on girls becoming women, bearing children and brining them up, together with other women.
Nowadays it seems bizarre and exotic somehow: ceremonial undoing of the maidenly braids, passing on the keys to the household chests, hemp rituals, floating the garlands on the water… and other women “butting in into the way I bring my child up”? Unthinkable!
Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, women were the most valued part of the community, carefully guarded from the strangers. They held the secrets to the group’s identity.
We’ve forgotten what it feels like to be rooted in a multi-generational household, full of cousins, aunties, grannies and uncles, with a place for everybody, with everybody given a voice. Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, women were the most valued part of the community, carefully guarded from the strangers. They held the secrets to the group’s identity. A traditional Polish “hen night” was attended by the Matron of Honour and all the bridesmaids; all the local girls would come too. They would bake cakes, make garlands and prepare the “wedding rod”. The rod was a branch from a pine, spruce or juniper tree, decorated with fruit, nuts and ribbons. This was passed on to the Best Man on the day of the wedding, as a symbol of his role. Women of all ages attended a hen night: from teenagers to 100 year olds, the full cross section of the females from the community. A perfect occasion to hear from the more experienced ones: relationship stories, husband management tips, spicy bedroom details and recipes for sweet treats. How quaint! And how interesting. These days we don’t want to cross the generation gap, we don’t want to live as a tribe, we don’t want to listen.
Agata dreamt of a different hen night – outdoors and sun, flowers, chatting, good food – a special version of an everyday. When I asked one of the invited girls about the concept of the whole thing, she said ‘we just wanted it to be nice’. Shockingly simple and not so obvious. Are women ‘nice’ to each other? ‘Isn’t this baby to hot in this coat?’ ‘So big and still in the pushchair!’ ‘You’ve put weight on!’ ‘You’ve lost weight!’ ‘Not looking too good today…’ – we all recognise these comments from casual meetings in the street. Unless it’s an elderly lady, really ancient. They are different. She would approach you at the market or in the fruit and veg aisle and say ‘How long do you need to cook these artichokes for, love?’ ‘Would you help me with these bags, hun?’ ‘Lovely smile on you, lass!’ These are the real witches. They remember the times when the strength of the women came from the group, and they are not scared to ask other women for advice or help. Nowadays we’d rather volunteer advice unsolicited then dare to ask.
Ideas for unique hen nights are mushrooming: bungee jumping, a group visit to a tattoo parlour, a day at the spa with beauty treatments. Happily, more and more often it’s simply about it “being nice”. Not just on special days, but every day. Girls stick together. For now, in separate age groups, but there is more to come, more jinxes to undo. Trust me: the artichokes, the little favours, the smiles – it’s nothing to be scared of!