Appalachia Appalachian Dialect Valentine's Day

Shivaree

old picture of man and woman standing by fence

Curtis and Bonnie Mease – Miss Cindy’s parents

charivari noun [pronounced shivaree, with stress on both first and third syllables; also shivering] A raucous, spontaneous celebration after a wedding, usu held late at night at the residence of a newly married couple and staged by friends and neighbors. It is characterized by various pranks.

1972 Cooper NC Mt Folklore 22 When a couple was married, within a few nights it was serenaded or given a chivaree. The leader—every neighborhood had one—summoned his followers to meet him on a given night. The serenade consisted of horns, the ringing of cowbells, beating of tin pans until the couple opened the door and invited everyone to come inside. 1981 Whitener Folk-ways 72-73 The chivaree, on the other hand, took place at night, and the indignities forced on the married couple were sometimes not only downright embarrassing but a trifle rough. The chivaree setting was the cabin to be occupied by the newlyweds the first night. But even before the couple reached the cabin, some mischievous soul had attempted to sneak into the bedroom and “cowbell” the mattress. Then, after the couple had been given time to retire for the night, the chivaree officially began. A crowd of friends and neighbors descended on the cabin, armed with dishpans, washtubs, and other noise-making instruments. Individuals shouted crudities, kicked on doors, shone their lanterns through windows, and otherwise attempted to force the couple to open the door for a continuation of post-wedding festivities. At the time the groom might invite the group in for food and drink, singing and dancing. 1982 Powers and Hannah Cataloochee 196 A bride and groom were apt to be greeted with a charivari which might include riding a groom on a rail . . . in his night clothes, and dumping him into a cold creek. 1991 Haynes Haywood Home 62 After the guests were gone, everything would be quiet for a while. Then bedlam would break loose outside the house as the Chivalree [sic] began. Wedding guests had returned with all kinds of noise makers imaginable. The couple was being serenaded in a special serenading and the racket went around and around the house. Then the men would go in and take the groom from his bed. The men would parade him on their shoulders around and around the house. If he was prepared, he had his clothes on. If not, they took him half-clothed. Around the house they’d go, laughing and joking at the groom’s expense. Meanwhile, women would take gifts in the house and pile them on the bride’s bed. After that everyone went home for good and left the couple in peace. 1996 Montgomery Coll. = also pronounce shivering (Norris).

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English

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I’ve never witnessed a shivaree, but it sure sounds like fun…well maybe not for the bride and groom. I guess the closest thing to a shivaree that happened at our wedding was empty cans tied to the car and shaving cream sprayed all over the windows.

Tipper

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12 Comments

  • Reply
    Eldonna Ashley
    February 16, 2020 at 12:19 am

    Pounding

  • Reply
    Eldonna Ashley
    February 16, 2020 at 12:17 am

    Hubs and I were shivareed shortly after our wedding 1961. It was a pretty rowdy bunch, Hubs and I were placed in separate cars and taken for a ride, horns blowing, we somehow ended up at an ice cream stand where hubs treated everyone to ice cream cones. This was in southern Ohio. Our area has deep southern roots which survive to this day. Hubs was aghast at the whole thing. He grew up in southern Illinois.

    Later we received a ponding, but that is a whole ‘ other thing.

  • Reply
    Colleen Holmes
    February 12, 2020 at 3:25 pm

    We did one to my best friend here in Michigan. We waited a few days. Practically the whole church came out for it. Everyone brought a dish to pass. The church pianist play hymns. It was great fun. I plan on doing it to my grandchildren after their honeymoons.

  • Reply
    Ray McGlothlin
    February 12, 2020 at 12:48 pm

    My mother told me about the time She and Dad were shivareed by their neighbors.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    February 12, 2020 at 12:14 pm

    Tipper,
    I can see a resemblance between Curtis and The Deer Hunter and like Cindy, her mama is pretty as the Dickens. That picture was taken several years ago. You surprised everybody by pulling old Pictures of kinfolks. …Ken

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    February 12, 2020 at 9:07 am

    What a handsome couple! You sure make me think. I had heard Shivaree. but neve tried to search out an exact meaning. I think I thought it was what pirates did. It has to be for young folks with too much energy. I wonder if a groom ever outsmarted them and stayed elsewhere.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    February 12, 2020 at 8:21 am

    Amen TMC! Sold your truck, wow. Actually a good metaphor for embracing the idea of changing your life, for the better of course.

    No shivaree for us. I cannot recall an instance of it being done. But I recall elders talking about it as a folk custom. All we had was the cans and shaving cream. I recall the place I stopped beside the road to remove the evidence. Very soon now that will have been nearly fifty years ago.

    Thinking of shivaree reminds me of my Dad’s friend. He and his brothers were forevermore pranky. One of their pranks was to get up a gang of boys, each one with a cowbell. Then after dark they would scatter out in someone’s big cornfield. After they were in place, one would start with their bell, out would come the farmer to chase the cow out of the field. When they could hear him getting close to the first bell position, a boy way over on the other side would start ringing. By and by, one side or the other just went home I reckon. The farmer was usually carrying a shotgun but none of them ever got shot.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      February 12, 2020 at 4:26 pm

      Speaking of pranking, my Daddy’s cousin Ray had a little Fiat. One day he came to get Uncle Wayne to cut his hair. When he parked his Fiat and went in the house. While he was sitting there unable to see outside a bunch of us big old boys picked that little car up and turned it the other way. When Ray came out to get back in it he went to the passenger side and tried to open the door. Of course it opened the wrong way smacked him. He stood there a while scratching his head and said “I could have swore I parked the other way. I know I didn’t turn around!” We told him we didn’t know, that none of us saw him drive up.
      I don’t know how but none of us cracked a smile until he left, still shaking his head. Then everybody busted out in laughter. I still picture it in my head and chuckle sometimes.

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    February 12, 2020 at 6:56 am

    I would have eloped.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 12, 2020 at 6:54 am

    I’ve never seen a shivaree either. Tip, I have to tell you I was startled to see the picture of my parents. They sure were a handsome couple, and get a look at those two tone shoes she is wearing. I bet they were something to see, they certainly were a handsome couple. He reminds me a little of the Deer Hunter. The have the same height and build.
    A shivaree sounds like a bunch of kids having a raucous time!

    • Reply
      Cynthia
      February 12, 2020 at 10:32 am

      I noticed her shoes right away! Everyone back then looked like movie stars. I have pictures of my parents before I came along, and they were so stylish.

  • Reply
    tmc
    February 12, 2020 at 5:48 am

    They not only did the tin can and shaving cream, they also picked our car up ( a 1963 Volkswagon ) about a half-inch off the ground and set it on blocks, when it was time to go the tires just spun, then they chocked the front tires, after a good laugh they picked the back end of the car up and set it down, I popped the clutch jumped the chocks and off we went my wife’s girlfriends chased us for several miles. I’ve always told my wife you know a man loves his bride when he sells his truck so they could get married and buy a 1963 Volkswagon.

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