No one knows for sure when henna was first used for skin decorating, but traces of henna have been found on mummies in Egypt and on cave painting in India dating back thousands of years. While this tradition is still widely used in India, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, it is now gaining popularity throughout the Western world as well. Rooted in the belief that those whose skin is adorned with henna are blessed with good fortune, henna is often associated with rights of passage-coming of age, marriage, and childbirth. Holidays and festivals are times when women and girls decorate their hands and feet, and henna patterns are sometimes unique to these occasions. In some cultures, a bridegroom may be decorated the night before a wedding as well. It is increasingly common for henna parties to be held in the United States, sometimes at weddings, birthday parties, and baby showers-and sometimes just for fun. Henna patterns are seen adorning pop icons like Madonna, Demi Moore, and Prince, and henna artists are becoming an increasingly common sight at street fairs and shops as a temporary and painless alternative to tattoos. Design motifs are included from many different cultures, with background information provided about the symbolism of the designs and motifs.
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