Lahu - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Monogamy is the usual practice. In most areas the young people are free to choose their marriage partners on the basis of love and have frequent opportunity to meet in work situations or at festivals and holidays. Courting begins around the age of 15 or 16. Love songs, the playing of flutes and reed organs, overnight visits, and the exchange of small gifts play an important part in courtship. Elopements occasionally occur, but generally the couple desires parental permission for marriage, and in the negotiations the young man's family sends gifts to the prospective bride's household. Except in highly Sinicized areas, the wedding formalities take place in the bride's village, and all the villagers are invited to a feast. Often, the groom is expected to reside in the bride's village for several years following the marriage, providing labor service to the bride's family. Later they move to his village. During the initial years, divorce is relatively easy. The Lahu permit remarriages of divorced or widowed persons.

Domestic Unit. Traditionally the large extended family was prevalent. Such households contained several or even several dozen nuclear units, which would include married siblings and their sons and daughters with their spouses and children, totaling as many as a hundred persons. The extended family was under the authority of a male household head, but each nuclear unit had its own separate room and cooking stove. Since the 1950s, these large households have dissolved and been replaced by smaller family units in separate dwellings. In the farming season, young couples move to the small hamlets close to their fields. The extended household pools and redistributes the harvests. Both sons and daughters have inheritance rights in the household, as does a widowed daughter-in-law who remains to care for the elder generation. Under modern Han influence, independent nuclear families are gaining ground.

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