A Chinese Wedding: Two red dates and lotus seeds in tea

Friday, 17 May 2013

For the Chinese, perhaps the most important part of a union between two people is the tea ceremony which makes a significant part of the entire day's festivities.

In the olden days, it symbolises the introduction and acceptance of the bride into the groom's family. In modern times, the tea ceremony is observed at both the groom's and bride's family, because gone are the days when a woman, once married, will then 'belong' to her husband's family.

Too bad I ain't got no daughter to pass this on to!


Traditionally, the tea sets are considered 'heirlooms' and are passed down from generation to generation. It is a part of the bride's 'dowry', and will be used again for her own daughter's ceremony.

Sweet tea is served by the newlyweds to the elders in the family, and it is believed to bring happiness and 'sweeten' the relations between the bride and her new in-laws. A common practice is to place lotus seeds and two red dates in the teapot.  The words "lotus" and "year," "seed" and "child," and "date" and "early," are homophones, i.e. they have the same sound but different meanings in Chinese. Secondly, the ancient Chinese believed that putting these items in the tea would help the newlyweds' fertility. We had longans (龙眼) added in as well, because the hubs is born in the 'Dragon' (龙) year.

There is a set order as to how the tea is served to the elders, according to the family hierarchy.
  • parents,
  • grandparents,
  • grand-uncles and grand-aunties,
  • uncles and aunties,
  • elder brothers and sisters,
  • elder cousins

However, there are also families that prefer to serve the grandparents tea before the parents. Within each generation, the father's relatives are served before mother's relatives. In traditional families, the young couple is required to serve tea whilst kneeling down. Most modern family only requires them to bow while serving tea. All women should always be either seated or standing on their man's left.

The hubs and I chose to kneel while serving tea to our elders as a mark of respect and gratitude, but we didn't do so for the elder brothers, sisters and cousins (who are married). In fact, we were not allowed to kneel while serving tea to family members of the 'same generation' as advised by the old wise ones - because it would only signify submission instead of respect.

In return for offering tea, we received red packets containing cash, cheques and jewellery. Which totally explained the huge smiles on both our faces!

The wicked grins were due to the heavy red packets, not because I officially became Mrs. Moo.
I know of some brides who insists that everyone call them by their married name even before the celebrations are over!

My side of the family. That's Mum in the main picture with my Uncle.
There's just something absolutely romantic about observing wedding traditions. It reminds me of bygone eras, and for that one day, we were able to experience the rituals that our parents, grandparents and millions of Chinese couples for hundreds of years have gone through.

A connection to the past, in the present, on the first day of our future.
It doesn't get any better than that.


    Amazingly Still

11 comments :

  1. love the photos of you smiling ever so sweetly. Sweetly?!!! hmmmm

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    1. EH! I have to look sweet mah!! In laws' home leh!

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    2. Her sweetly smile reminds me of the photo she showed us a year ago... her in red gown sitting in an ungirly manner ahhaa~

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    3. Eh... shows that I'm adaptable hor!

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  2. We too did have the tea ceremony when we got married but it was held at the hotel instead of the home.
    Lovely pictures Reg :)

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  3. you look so sweet! and yes, my smile was very very big when receiving the ang baos from tea ceremony too. hahaha!!

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    1. Mabes... now no more sweet lah? Huh?! HUH!! :p

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  4. Very preeety tea set! The teapot almost looks lik a toy!

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  5. What a pretty tea set! I actually used my Mom's wedding tea set for my tea ceremony and am hoping to pass it on to Aly!

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  6. Excellent read, I just now passed this onto a colleague who has been carrying out a little research on that. Anf the husband actually bought me lunch because I stumbled upon it for him smile So ok , i’ll rephrase that: Thank you for lunch!

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