Some claim a shivaree is an old Appalachian custom performed in the 19th and early 20th centuries, with its roots based in 16th century France. Gaelic sources claim a shivaree (or in Gaelic, a "sibh a ri") is an Old Irish custom. And others claim the word shivaree is derived from a Late Latin word that simply means "headache."
But for those who have never taken part in a shivaree (or been the victims of one) a shivaree is a loud, boisterous gathering of friends, relatives and townsfolk to wake newlyweds from their slumber. Taking place late at night or very early in the morning, the revelers shoot guns, ring cowbells, and cause a commotion in hopes of disturbing the newly wedded couple. An impromptu party breaks out with alcohol served along with candy, cookies, and assorted snacks - some provided by the newlywed couple themselves. Some shivaree traditions, mostly Appalachian, expect the half-asleep bride to sit in a wash tub and get carried around by townsfolk. And Irish traditions claim the bride must appear in her wedding dress.
On July1, 1909, a shivaree took place in Grand Forks County that was later referred to as "The Worst Shivaree in the History of North Dakota." Martin and Ragna Slinden, whose farmstead was a few miles from Northwood, were married on June 30. It was late at night on July 1 that neighbors and families showed up at their doorstep "asking for liquor." Revelers walked around the Slinden house, shooting guns in the air and making a commotion. Someone brought a 32-inch cast iron cannon and loaded it with stone blasting powder. The cannon exploded, shooting pieces of metal in all directions. Neighbor Pete Bakke was hit by flying shrapnel in the chest and later died from injuries. And that was the last (recorded) shivaree in Grand Forks County.
It was most likely French fur traders and settlers along the Mississippi River who brought the custom to this part of the country. Charivari, a French term meaning "a noisy mock serenade for newlyweds" evolved over the years into shivaree. For those in the Deep South, the custom is known as belling or serenading. Upstate New Yorkers use the term horning. Regardless of the terminology, a shivaree seems to be a post-wedding custom that is no longer practiced, and now resides in memories and history books.
Dakota Datebook written by Jill Whitcomb
Trondelag-L Archives.website- March 19, 2003- Worst shivaree in the History of North Dakota- http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/TRONDELAG/2003-03/1048111980
Carleton County Collequialisms website- shivaree-http://www.dooryard.ca/shivaree/html
Appalachian History- June bride? Time for a shivaree! 6/18/07- http://appalachianhistory.blogspot.com/2007/06/june-bride-time-for-shivaree.html