Accepted paper:

Ritual construction of money-gifts: forest traders and wedding inflation in Transylvania


Monica Vasile (Humboldt University/ IRITHESys)

Paper short abstract:

The paper examines extravagant inflation of wedding feasts and money gifts in mountainous communities of timber producers and traders in Transylvania. It discusses ideas of change, generosity, gain and reciprocity.

Paper long abstract:

This study is concerned with mountain rural communities in Transylvania, which experienced an unprecedented economic boom after the fall of socialism and inflated spectacularly their wedding feasts. The opulence of recent 'wedding businesses' of this Transylvanian area is quite singular, compared to other rural areas in Romania and Europe. The very high amount of money raised for the endowment of the young couple is also outstanding. This inflation occurs in contrast to the rather small and house-oriented wedding ritual of the period before the collapse of socialism. Many instances of the wedding, especially the money-giving ceremony and the harsh haggling over gifts among parents and godparents comprise a kernel of potential destruction of social relationships, which can be smoothed out by ritualization, as it was described by other anthropologists for other social situations. However, it would be misleading to call the weddings a misrecognition or mystification, a bare exchange of cash veiled in the ideology of gift, sociality and generosity. Rather, this study argues that self-interest and genuine sociality and generosity coexist and are intermingled in practices and events. Money rising is as much part constituted as a ritual as the ritual is a form of raising money.

panel W120
Economy and ritual