“Passover Nuptials and Lettuce”

Many Jewish urban Libyan families in the last one hundred years did not allow their daughters to step out of the house until they got married. Thus, in Ottoman Tripoli there were no public occasions, save one, in which marriageable youth could see each other, and consequently, the preparations for this event were abundant. … It was customary in Tripoli that once a year, on the afternoon of the last day of Passover, marriageable Jewish youth could see each other in public. The girls were allowed to expose their faces while they stood at the window, on the balcony, on the roof, or even outside the gate of the house. In order to appear at their best, the girls would put on their prettiest garments and jewelry. Meanwhile, young men walked to and fro in the street to view the girls and throw flowers in front of those they met. If a man found someone to his liking, all the other men and women would throw flowers in front of the couple. Thus, this day was referred to as the Festival of the Roses (hag ha shoshanim). The young man would then communicate his intentions to the parents of the girl by bringing to the parents’ house a basket full of lettuce and flowers on the same evening: the acceptance of this present meant the consent of the parents to the marriage proposal. This event was called Lettuce and Flowers (khass wa-nuwwar).”

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