USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘wedding’
Foodways
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Vietnamese Buddhist Wedding Feast

The informant, AA, is a Vietnamese American high school student. She is a second generation immigrant- both of her parents and their families are from Vietnam, and many of them still live here. AA shared with me a Vietnamese food tradition that she participated in herself at a wedding:

 

“So when my aunt and uncle were married, after the ceremony there was this big feast. There were 7 to 10 courses- they’re always the same foods at Buddhist weddings.

First there are cold dishes, like jellyfish salad, and then it goes to hot dishes, like lobster and hot pot. It’s always the same dishes in the same order. They’re always really precise about the order, especially at this wedding since my aunt is very Buddhist, actually.  It’s always very elaborate, and a lot of money is spent on the food. It incorporates many different types of seafood.

The dishes are served in a certain order as a way of wishing good luck onto the couple. For appetizers, we have sliced meats and jellyfish, and nuts shaped like dragons and phoenixes- those are served chilled as well. It’s supposed to symbolize, like, the male and female roles in a marriage. The dragon represents the groom- so powerful and strong. And then the female is like a phoenix because she is “born again” into this new life as a wife.

Later on, there is a roast pig that’s meant to symbolize virginity. I’m not sure why, exactly! I don’t know, I think it’s just a really old, sort of outdated tradition. Because back then the bride was supposed to be a virgin, and since many weddings were arranged marriages it was really valued for the girl to be a virgin.

Another common dish is shark fin soup. But since its Western style now, these kinds of weddings in America usually switch it up to pork soup or porridge. Then you have the lobster, and since it’s red it symbolizes luck and happiness and joy. Colors are really significant in Buddhist and Vietnamese weddings, especially red. Then you have fish, which symbolizes abundance, like, the abundance of money and possibly children. Towards the very end you have noodles, which is longevity.”

Which dish do you find to be the most significant, with a meaning you find particularly special?

“Desert is usually sweet red bean soup, which, stands for 100 years of togetherness because the soup contains a lot of seeds and beans- I think that one is really cute!”

Is this something all or most Buddhists do?

“It’s specifically Vietnamese Buddhist. It’s very unique to our specific background so it’s very important to me.”

 

My thoughts: Every culture has rich traditions pertaining to weddings. The particular wedding food customs AA mentioned are so fascinating because they show the intersection of Vietnamese, Buddhist, and Western traditions- for example, shark fin soup is replaced with other foods to reflect Western criticism/rejection of shark fin soup for ethical reasons. The idea of symbolic foods that ensure happiness and prosperity later in the marriage are common in different cultures, including the Hungarian wedding folklore collected by Géza Róheim, as well as foods that represent virginity or gender roles.

Rituals, festivals, holidays

Henna Celebration

The informant is an Israeli American who grew up practicing traditions from both her Israeli and Persian culture. She describes an Israeli bridal shower and all of her favorite parts of it.

  • Around a wedding time, a few weeks before there kind of all that build up around the bride and groom and the wedding takes a lot of planning and all that, but a couple weeks before many of, um, many different uh… how to do you say it… people from all different backgrounds in Israel, you know the Syrians do it one way, Iraqis do it a different way, but pretty much all of the do a henna, its kind of like a bridal shower, but nothing like insane, you know a lot more colorful, they are usually at night and not during the day, and they usually mix men and women. The bride is you know prepped, she has to get everything done, the harry the makeup, and then older ladies come and giver her different words of advice you know things to do, not to do, how to keep a marriage going. You know, of course there’s a big feast, there’s a big candy table thats set up with all different sweets that you take home. But not like a modern day, more like homemade sweets, you know things that grandma would know how to make. And different people bring different things. And then there is a henna mix that they make, and they put it on their hands, right. They will put like a scoop of it on your palm, and then on your beloved’s palm, and then they squeeze them together to make an imprint, so that you have the dye, the same dye. Your hand is in his, and they will do the same thing with the feet, and it’s kind of to symbolize that from here on they are one and you know that they have to find a way to make it work, and to say that may all their days be as sweet as this candy that they are serving. I would say this tradition is more Sephardic Jews, Persians definitely do it, but I know family friends that are Moroccan, Iraqi, definitely do a big thing with that as well. I don’t know about Ashkenazi Jews so much, but definitely Sephardic.
  • Yeah so this is just he Henna Celebration. You know, and she’s given a lot of jewelry, and the family will present her with jewelry, its kind of, its fun. It’s excessive in a way, in that she’s wearing everything, one on top of the other. The people eat, they drink, they dance. Its very different. You know I remember going to a bridal shower here and thinking: oh this is very, this is very tame. Where are the guys? And you know, I had one here in Los Angeles. Yeah, some people will put a gold coin, into the palm of the bride and grooms hand when they squeeze it to say that, may they have good fortune and be successful, and be able to help others not just provide for themselves. There’s a lot around it. Its very colorful. You can kind of imagine how Indian bridal celebrations are, they have a lot of action, a lot of food, lot of color, lot of flowers, candles. And then all the old people in the family coming forward with all kinds of goodies and words of encouragement and advice. Its different, very different. 

ANALYSIS:

I found it most interesting that the informant mentioned feeling like American bridal showers were tame. I also was pleasantly surprised to find out that she had one of these celebrations of her own here in Los Angeles. I think it is so important that people celebrate and bring their rituals and customs with them wherever they go.

Adulthood
Customs
Folk speech
Life cycle
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Chaldean Ululation

Title: Chaldean Ululation

Ethnicity: Chaldean

Age: 21

Situation (Location, ambience, gathering of people?): The interviewee and I are sitting in a coffee shop in San Diego, taking a break from our daily activities to have some coffee midday and talk about some of his and his families traditions.

Piece of Folklore:

Interviewee- “So within my family, and really most Chaldean families, we have this practice of, I think it’s called ululation in English, not sure about that. And so what we do is we make this high pitched noise, and then we use our tongues to make it stutter, and it sounds really cool.”

Interviewer- “When do you make that sound?”

Interviewee- “Special occasions mostly. We don’t go around doing it at Wal-Marts and stuff! I think that would seriously throw most people off and probably even scare some other people. It can get really loud. So once example is we always do them at weddings. Always. And it is usually the women that do it, and they love doing it, especially if they have been drinking a bit. They go, and they get the wife, and they go off and do the thing, and everyone cheers them on. Really it’s more of letting emotion and happiness out, it’s something that we use to show that we are really emotional about something.”

Analyzation:

This practice is unique to Middle Eastern countries and peoples, and it is something that has carried on into the United States when those families immigrated here. This cultural practice has not ceased, and if anything, has grown even more predominant in these families because it reminds them who they are, where they are from, and how they should live their lives, according to their culture.

Tags: Chaldean, Ululation, Ceremony

Kinesthetic
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Breaking of the Glass and the Huppah in Jewish Wedding Tradition

The informant is a 67-year-old Mexican-American woman who is a reverend. She is known for tailoring wedding receptions to couples from different cultural backgrounds, and in her words “taking old traditions and giving them new meaning.” Many consider her to be the “guru of new wedding traditions.”

While out to breakfast while the informant was visiting me in Los Angeles, I asked her to describe any wedding ritual or tradition that has stood out to her throughout her time as a reverend. Her response was as follows,

“Well, there are many traditions drawn from each culture, and the couple always gets to choose which they would most like to incorporate. One in particular that is almost always a part of weddings where the bride or groom is Jewish is the breaking of the glass. I’d say 99% of the time if either of the two is Jewish, they’ll do this. Basically, I bless a wine glass, wrap it up in a linen cloth, and place it at the groom’s feet. He then stomps on it. This represents how fragile life is and dates back to the suffering of the Jews. In some weddings, the breaking of the glass is done under a huppah, a cloth that is held up to create a canopy over the bride and groom. The four ends of the cloth represent the four directions, and the couple standing underneath it means that they will build a life and home together.”

On the surface, the breaking of the glass is a lighthearted wedding ritual that is fun for both the groom and all who watch him perform it. Under normal circumstances it is taboo to purposefully shatter a glass, and the ridiculousness of the groom doing so on purpose serves as a source of laughter for the wedding attendees. The significance of the ritual is actually very heavy, representing the ease at which our lives can be taken and the history of persecution that the Jewish people have endured. It is most likely important for the fragility of life to be highlighted at such an important transition in one’s life as a wedding to serve as a reminder to the bride and groom, along with the audience, not to take one another for granted and to make each day special. I asked the informant the significance of the huppah representing the four cardinal directions, and she responded that she was not entirely sure. Since the couple standing underneath the canopy during the ceremony is symbolic of their future life together, it is possible that the four directions provide a physical representation of the permanent connection forged between the newlyweds—no matter where in the world they may be, they are connected to one another beneath their commitment to marriage.

Customs
Kinesthetic
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Lazo and Arras in Mexican Wedding Tradition

The informant is a 67-year-old Mexican-American woman who is a reverend. She is known for tailoring wedding receptions to couples from different cultural backgrounds, and in her words “taking old traditions and giving them new meaning.” Many consider her to be the “guru of new wedding traditions.”

When out to breakfast with the informant while she was visiting me in Los Angeles, I asked her if there were any Mexican rituals or traditions that she often incorporated in her weddings. She responded,

“Oh yes. The lazo and arras ceremony. Before the couple takes their vows, the maid of honor and the best man take a lazo (a rope) and wrap it around the bride and groom. This symbolizes to the community that the bride and groom are now one. The arras is 13 coins representing Jesus and the 12 apostles. I bless the coins and pour them into the groom’s hands. He then pours these into the bride’s hands. This symbolizes to the community that he will take care of her. Nowadays, because women want to be viewed as equals, often times the groom will pour las arras into the bride’s hands, and the bride will then pour them back into the groom’s hands, showing that she will take care of him, just as he will her, spiritually, emotionally, and financially.”

This ritual, which the informant often performs when marrying an individual with a Mexican cultural background to someone without this background, is symbolic of the spiritual, emotional, and physical commitments that come with marriage. It is typically performed at weddings where one or both partners practice the Christian faith, because of the parallel between the thirteen coins and Jesus and the 12 apostles. However, the informant stated that the ceremony is still sometimes conducted during secular weddings due to family tradition. It is interesting to examine how this form of folklore has evolved over time to reflect the cultural norms in which it is performed, as it was once held that the man is entirely responsible for taking care of his bride, but with the recent push for gender equality across all spectra of life it is now also important for the woman to show she will take care of her groom. The lazo is a public display of a couple’s commitment to one another, and highlights the permanent merging of two individual’s lives as a result of their marriage.

Customs
Kinesthetic
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Apache Blessing and Tying of the Hands in American Indian Wedding Tradition

The informant is a 67-year-old Mexican-American woman who is a reverend. She is known for tailoring wedding receptions to couples from different cultural backgrounds, and in her words “taking old traditions and giving them new meaning.” Many consider her to be the “guru of new wedding traditions.”

While out to breakfast while the informant was visiting me in Los Angeles, I asked her to describe a ritual or tradition that was commonly incorporated in weddings where either the bride or groom has an American Indian cultural background. She described a ritual called “the tying of the hands.”

“The tying of the hands is a lovely tradition. The families provide a traditional rope, which sometimes has a strip of material representing their tribe. I bind the couples’ hands together with the rope, and so they vow to be seen by the community as one. Usually the couple likes me to follow this by saying the Apache blessing. Christians, and secular weddings seem to like it as well. The start of it goes, ‘Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter for the other. Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other. Now there will be no loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the other. Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you.’”

While the Apache blessing is rooted in American Indian tradition and the tying of the knot may incorporate a bride or groom’s tribal heritage, the combination of the two can be used for a wedding ceremony between two individuals of any background. The Apache blessing in particular is extremely transferrable because it makes no reference to God or any higher power, instead focusing solely on the positive, heartwarming implications of marriage for the bride and the groom. The tying of the hands serves as a physical representation of the couple’s union, followed by the description of the details of this union in the blessing.

Folk speech
Riddle

Cuban Riddle

Original Script: “Un muchacho le pregunta a una muchacha, ‘Cómo te llamas?’ Ella le contesta, ‘Si el enamorado es entendido, ahí va mi nombre y el color de mi vestido. La respuesta correcta es, ‘Su nombre es Elena y su vestido es morado.”

Transliteration: “A boy asks a girl, ‘How do you call yourself?’ She to him responds, ‘If the lover is understood, there goes my name and the color of my dress.’ The answer correct is, ‘Her name is Elena and her dress is purple.'”

Translation: “A boy asks a girl, ‘What’s your name?’ She responds, ‘If the lover is understood, there goes my name and the color of my dress.’ The correct answer is, “Her name is Elena and her dress is purple.'”

 

This riddle only makes sense in Spanish because the Spanish word for lover, enamorado, is a combination of the last three letter’s of the girl’s name, Elena, as well as the color of her dress, morado. ena+morado=enamorado. Furthermore, the word enamorado is preceded by the word el in the joke. El translates into “the” in this context. The woman in the riddle is testing the man to see if he’s clever enough to figure out  her name using only the clue, rather than just asking for it.

The source said she heard it at a bridal shower. They were telling wedding riddles, and this one came up. It’s a coy riddle, with the woman sounding very flirtatious. It seems she’s interested in this man, but only if he’s smart enough to beat her game. It seems odd that her dress would be purple rather than white, though. Perhaps in some earlier version of the riddle, the man was a prince? Because purple is known to indicate royalty.

 

For another form of this riddle:

Ortiz Y Pino De Dinkel, Reynalda, and Dora Gonzales De Martínez. Una Colección De Adivinanzas Y Diseños De Colcha = A Collection of Riddles and Colcha Designs. Santa Fe, NM: Sunstone, 1988. Google Books. Web. 23 Apr. 2016.

Folk Dance
Kinesthetic
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Flying Dutchman

The informant is a new professional in post-secondary administration. He lives in New Zealand, but he is originally from Apple Valley, California and went to university at the University of California, Irvine, where he was involved in student affairs and studied computer science. His background is Italian and Polish, and he has 3 older siblings.

This piece describes a dance that the informant’s family performs at Polish weddings.

“So at Polish weddings, there’s a polka dance called the Flying Dutchman, and so it’s pretty traditional to always do it. And so, basically how it works is you get in groups of three and you all kind of line up and walk around in a circle. So, the groups of three all go in a circle and there’s basically two tempos of the song—one is slow and one is fast. So when it’s slow, you’re just in your group of three with all your arms linked going in a circle, really simple. And then once the tempo picks up, then you start doing kind of a do-si-do thing. So the one person in the middle is always going to be moving around really really quickly because they’ll go to the left and swing around to the person on the right and then go around to the person on the left, so they’re basically doing a figure eight around the two people on the outside.

The reason it’s called the Flying Dutchman is cause if you’re going fast enough, eventually they should start actually flying. So then it’ll go really fast for about, I don’t know, 30 seconds, and then it’ll slow back down again and everyone gets back into their group of three and goes around in the slow circle again. And then it picks up and you do it really really quick, and then it slows down and you slow down, and it picks up, and it slows down. So it’s a very very very fun wedding song. I’ve been to….five weddings now? For my cousins, no—four, because two cousins and my brother and sister, and at all four of them, they did the Flying Dutchman. It was fantastic.”

What does the Flying Dutchman mean to you?

“Mainly it’s fun, but I also think of weddings—Polish weddings. Cause I’ve been to weddings with other people and no one knows what it is, or they haven’t done it, so, like, at every wedding I go to I would want to do the Flying Dutchman, but not everyone does it cause it’s a Polish thing.”

Do you know anything about where this tradition came from? It’s okay if you don’t, I’m just curious.

“I have no idea.”

Analysis:

I find this dance most interesting because of how it requires three people to a group instead of two, especially as it’s performed primarily at weddings. The do-si-do portion of the dance almost seems like a depiction of an inability to choose between the two partners on either side of the dancer. The informant did not describe whether or not the bride and groom performed this dance in any particular way.

The name of the dance is also interesting—as it’s a Polish tradition, it was surprising that the name of the dance is the Flying Dutchman. As the informant did not know the origin of the tradition, he did not know why it has the name it does, or whether or not it also is performed by the Dutch.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Foodways
Material

The Miracle Paste

Original Script: “Okay so you were there when we heard this story from Sheliah…but I will say it again because GOD BLESS, that stuff has helped us. So, a while ago, Sheliah was doing this wedding—she is a makeup artist—and the bride had food poisoning on her wedding day! Food. Poisoning. That is probably the worst possible thing that could happen on her wedding day. It was from a Mexican restaurant at the rehearsal dinner the night before. Anyways, the bride was literally feeling so sick and Sheliah had tried EVERYTHING to get the bride to feel better. Even the vendors who were just for set up were trying to get the bride to feel better because she was going to call off her wedding! They tried bread, everything you could find in CVS to make food positioning subside, EVERYTHING. Sheliah was about to follow the bride down the aisle with a bucket! The bride was crying and Sheliah was trying to put on her false eyelashes while the bride kept throwing up. But, this one lady from production or another, came into the room with this weird purple paste called ‘Umeboshi Paste,’ basically like a Japanese plum puree, that you have to go to a world market to find. Anyways, she open the jar up, took out a spoon full and gave it to the bride, you could literally see the brides color in her face come back! It is literally a miracle paste! The ending of the story was sooooo funny though! Everyone started working double time to get the bride all set and ready. Sheliah walked into the room where the bride had her wedding dress and stopped in her tracks, she ran out of the room yelling, ‘YOU HAVE A FREAKING MONIQUE LHUILLIER!? IF I WOULD OF KNOWN THAT I WOULD OF KICKED YOUR BUTT TWO HOURS AGO!!’ Hahah, but ever since hearing that story, we, and every other wedding planner I know carry this miracle paste in their emergency kits. Just in case. You never know!”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Tiffany is an event coordinator and has been for a couple of years. She has ample experience in the event planning business and usually knows how to get out of the most complicated situations. However, She has never heard of a story where a planner was able to cure food poisoning during the wedding day (given that most brides do not risk having rehearsal dinners at unknown restaurants). Usually, when food poisoning occurs the bride is able to last the ceremony. Recently, the story Tiffany, and I, heard was a few months ago. Since then, she always carries this Umeboshi paste and knows many event planners that carry the paste as well. Just in case food poisoning occurs.

Context of the Performance: Wedding Day Food Poisoning

Thoughts about the piece: Given the fact that I work with Tiffany as well as heard the story myself, it is still an interesting and funny tale as well as a fascinating way to cure food poisoning. Hearing the story a second time was just as amusing as the first time I heard it. At first, Tiffany and I thought that Sheliah was making this story up—that it was a practical joke. Nonetheless, after she showed us a picture of the paste, and using it in a food poisoning case ourselves (but thankfully only once) it is as Tiffany had noted, a “miracle paste.”

Furthermore, it is interesting to note that CVS or western medicines—a “modern” medicine—could not cure the food poisoning of the bride but a paste from Japan was able to—and quickly as well. This shows that even though America prides itself on being a developed nation, there are still some barriers that are not broken. Moreover, the fact that this paste is now widely used with event planners to cure food poisoning, it has become a folk medicine; the folk being event planners and the medicine being the Umeboshi Paste. Even though, this paste was probably not meant to be a cure for food poisoning, event planners have innovated it to work as such.

Following up with Tiffany a month later, she said that she does not go to an event without it. Thus, this material object—which is now a folk medicine—can also be seen as a sacred object and/ or good luck charm just in case something was to go wrong during the event. This folk medicine demonstrates how even when modern medicine, that has coincidently been mostly derived from folk medicine, cannot cure a simple case of food poisoning, when a simple paste from Japan can. In which, this folk medicine surpasses westernized medicine.

Folk speech
Riddle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

“Something old, Something new, Something borrowed, Something blue”

Original Script: “Alright, so this is a really common wedding riddle but it is the old, ‘something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue’ Doing events, especially weddings, I hear this saying all the time. However, I have never seen a bride really go out of her way to put this together…or at least I have never been apart of putting this together for the bride. It usually consists of four items, and of course I have heard of people doing this but have never actually seen it done. However, one time, it was a lovely older couple getting married, and the bride combined all four elements into one! The necklace was old, I believe it was her grandmothers, but there was a new hook on it, so it was new and old. The necklace belonged to her mother, but she let the bride borrow it. AND, there was a blue gem in the middle of it! It was crazy! But really cute!

I don’t know if it really counts as the riddle suggests, but it was a cool mix of the four things! I actually don’t think a lot of couples have heard of the riddle, or at least don’t keep it in mind…I don’t think it is as important now as it was in the past, like, I don’t know if I will do that when I get married, I will focused more on how things will go, how the event will turn out, and of course, you can’t forget the dress!”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Tiffany is an event coordinator and has been for a couple of years. She has ample experience in the event planning business and usually knows how to get out of the most complicated situations. The events she plans are anywhere from corporate events, fundraisers, to weddings (destination or locale in California). Planning events, usually weddings, there are a lot of traditions that surround them (for example the bride’s father walking her down the aisle, holding a bouquet of flowers, throwing that bouquet into a crowd of woman and whoever catches it, is who is getting married next). While being apart of all of these traditions, according to Tiffany the riddle above is a rarity in weddings, or at least an event planner is not part of that particular tradition.

Context of the Performance: Wedding Day Prepping

Thoughts about the piece: From television shows to magazines such as the high-end wedding magazine by Grace Ormonde, this riddle shows up everywhere, and is never taken out of its traditional setting, which is a wedding on the wedding day. I found it interesting how Tiffany has never seen the actual process of getting each individual item from all the weddings she has conducted. The only case she had seen this riddle played out was through the clients of an older couple. This suggests, that the riddle might have been more prominent through the past generations, where it was more of a practiced tradition to get something that was old, something that was new, something that was borrowed, and something that was blue. However, this tradition has become seemingly not adherent to the newer couples that are getting married, since Tiffany had mentioned that she has not seen the tradition thoroughly done before (please note that she has coordinated over 20 weddings). Each item the riddle describes also has a specific significance: something new would be a representation of the future; something old would be a representation of the past (where that person comes from); something borrowed would be a representation of the connections that person has; and something blue would represent loyalty (as the color is associated with such). Thus, the motifs of these items correlate with motifs to the day of the wedding.

Furthermore, Tiffany had mentioned that, “at least she has never been a part of that,” which shows that there is a separation of groups, the occupational group being the coordinators and another group being the attendees at the wedding (there of course of three divisions in this group the bride’s family, the groom family, and the friends). A fascinating connection all these groups have is the wedding day, where all four of them come together, just like all four of the items in the riddle come together. Additionally, it is important to see the seperation of knowledge from the two different groups (i.e. the coordinators and the clients). For example, tiffany has heard of the proverb because of all the weddings she has coordinated, she had mentioned that, “I actually don’t think a lot of couples have heard of the riddle, or at least don’t keep it in mind it.” Which demonstrates that traditions are constantly changing overtime.

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