The Importance of Traditions

We finally moved in to a new apartment, which is much brighter and spacious. I now feel more at ease working on my blog or other art projects! Not to mention, the motivation has been great so far. There were many events that occurred in the past year. A lot of time was spent on traveling. The two most challenging events that occurred for me was my big move to the US and my wedding celebration back in South East Asia. Even though, it was a stressful process and I fell ill along the way, I was a very happy bride on the day of my wedding. If there was one thing I could change, it be my poor complexion.  Somehow, the photos still turned out beautiful, there was a natural and genuine smile in everyone, and I’m glad that people said I had this beautiful glow the whole time. No matter the appearance, perhaps it is like that for any happy bride, who knows in her heart that she is blessed with everlasting love.

Last night at dinner, we met up with a couple, J & L, whom my husband has been friends with for almost 2 years now. The girl, J, is a Caucasian from Washington, and the guy, L, is Spanish by descent but grew up in America. I just got to know them since I moved down here not too long ago. I can literally count the number of times I hung out with them — 6 times in 5 months. This couple recently got married, and we had the honor of attending their wedding. It was beautiful and simple. There were about 80 guests, and the ceremony took only 15 minutes in total. It was fun towards the end of the night where the dancing started, but the night did end early at 10 pm.

So, we discussed our wedding events over dinner, both the stressful and joyous moments. It was too bad that their photos did not turn out so well. It seemed that the photographer wasn’t up to his game and some of J’s bridal portraits had a shadow over parts of her face. Moreover, the photographer was taking too long to deliver the finished photos to them & their guests. Transportation for out-of-town guests seemed to be a common challenge. They had many guests, who were L’s relatives and friends, from Spain who were visiting the US for the first time. He was worrying the whole time on how to be a good host to them apart from the wedding activities.

At one point, J asked us if we had to bring any chickens back to the US. I was guessing that my husband had told them a little about Chinese wedding traditions, whereby in olden days live chickens were part of the grand gifts and had to be placed under the newlyweds beds. So we laughed about it and said yes, although it wasn’t live chickens. I showed them a photo of the pair of decorative chickens that we brought back from Brunei. It so happened that I had a recent photo of the decoration I had set up on our dresser top for my parents to see. And so, they asked about its symbolism, and we replied shyly that it was something to do with blessing the couple with fertility. My husband then mentioned we also received many other gifts that have different symbolism for wishing the newlyweds a happy marriage, and J burst out  sarcastically, “What … you folks have like a shrine at your place?”

I know I was a little shocked by that, while my husband just laughed and shrugged it off.  It didn’t bother me a whole lot, but if I were her, I sure wouldn’t be asking or mentioning that in a sarcastic tone. She was probably just trying to joke around, but to me, I never joke around about others’ traditions and religion. I am always careful even though the other party might joke care-freely about their own culture.

Naturally, these ancient traditions being passed down to the modern world may sound silly to some people. Or a waste of time; waste of money, especially with the new age cynics who question the truth and logic behind all of it. Some children might just say, “Well, we do it just to please the old folks.” To some degree, I agree with the intent. However, after having gone through the experience myself in preparation for my own wedding, I feel it is more than just pleasing the old folks. Of course, nothing too questionable was involved like sacrificing a live animal or hurting oneself to sacrifice blood. Everything was meant to be sweet and blissful, involving mostly fruits, dried food, clothing, and jewelry; from the betrothal ceremony (过大礼 “Guo Da Li”) up to the wedding day itself … it felt good!

Some of my friends pitied me for the ordeal I had to go through on my wedding day. Imagine the exhaustion of having to wake up at 4 AM (after having only 2 hours of sleep) to get gussied up because the event had to start at 6.30 AM due to auspicious timing of activities, of which our families had consulted with respected Buddhist monks. Sure, it was tiring but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. First, if it is auspicious and perhaps, in some ways will bring good things to my future marriage, why not believe it and take the chance rather than have a life of regrets later? Second, I definitely did not have the energy to go against my parents or my in-laws on this matter. A happy family will make the event more joyous, and I believe it should be kept that way for the best.

When I was younger, I attended one of my aunt’s wedding in Malaysia. She was born and raised there but decided that she will live the rest of her life with her husband in the US. They had their wedding celebration in Malaysia, and I think she had decided not to perform the tea ceremony and all the other Chinese customs for a wedding as it was too cumbersome. Somehow it seemed her parents agreed, but on the day of the wedding when she was getting ready to go to the church for the ceremony, her mom just felt that they should just do a simple one before she left the house. She threw a fit and they started arguing in front of their guests, and it was just sad to witness the happy day turning sour. I can’t remember if she gave in to her mom’s request in the end. I saw how her mom cried, and her disappointment, and I felt her pain. For my wedding, I tried my best to make sure that I do not hurt my parents the same way.

One day, if I have children, and when they get married, I will probably insist on some things as well. Hopefully, I’ll be a good enough parent to expose them to the importance of holding on and keeping over 2,400 years of traditions alive. I believe they set our identity. In all honesty, being simple and avoiding the challenges is just being selfish because you want just the happiness to yourself. Yes, my husband and I were very tired and exhausted, but so were all my friends and relatives who had helped out. Even if it was tiring, everybody was so happy for us, and did not mind the effort they needed to put in.

There’s one thing I know for sure … I felt the love, the warmth, and the genuine happiness by every single person, out of 700 guests, on the days leading up to our wedding day, and especially on the day itself. Even though, we were amidst chaotic activities, it was precisely grand, and simply surreal.

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