I liked this post because I learned so much about Chinese traditions through the Chinese cookie party tradition. Weddings are as much about joining families as they are about the couple. Respecting and honoring traditions of the past, no matter how strange they may seem to us today, is a way to honor our families, too.
I wouldn’t consider myself traditionally Chinese in the cultural sense. My Cantonese is at the same level of a three-year-old and my family doesn’t really celebrate any of the Chinese holidays, the Lunar New Year included. But when it came to my wedding, my mom insisted on going through the whole shebang of Cantonese wedding traditions.
This weekend, my family threw me what Cantonese people call a “cookie party.” The tradition goes something like this:
Obviously, the traditions are incredibly outdated. I was not “purchased” by Mr. Eggplant’s family in exchange for cakes and a pig and I will be seeing him before we’re married. But my mom and everyone on her side of the family participated in the cookie party tradition before their weddings and Mamma Eggplant didn’t feel my wedding was complete without my own cookie party. Mr. Eggplant’s family is also incredibly traditional and all of his aunts had their own cookie parties. I was pretty creeped out by some of the meanings behind the presents (especially the dowry and fertility parts), but I went along with it anyway. It made everyone happy and my parents had about fifty family members over to celebrate so I was able to connect with many of my relatives before the wedding.
Anyway, I’ll share some pictures from Sunday (Warning: Pictures may be graphic, so if you have a sensitivity to dead, roasted animals or you are fond of Babe, the sheep-pig, don’t read any further!):
My aunt, grandma, and grand aunt cutting off the head and rear end of the piggy.
The front and hind portion of piggy on a platter and ready to be returned to Mr. Eggplant’s family. There’s also a lucky red envelope stuck on the pig’s head.
Mr. Eggplant’s Aunt and Uncle brought the cakes over to our house, ordered from AA Bakery in Chinatown. We received a total of two hundred cakes. Six different kinds were selected. Some of them were filled with the same sweet lotus seed centers found in Chinese moon cakes. Others were sponge cakes and large almond cookies. One of the pastries was pretty gross, with a preserved egg in the center (or thousand year-old egg) surrounded by a peanut filling. I think it was supposed to symbolize fertility or something.
These are some of the cakes that we returned to Mr. Eggplant’s family along with more lucky red envelopes. You can see here that some of the cakes are stamped with a double happiness character.
Me and Grandma Eggplant (my mom’s side). Sadly, I can’t communicate with her very well because I don’t understand the dialect of Cantonese that she speaks.
When my mom was married, my grandma requested seven hundred cakes from my dad’s side of the family. Grandpa Eggplant (Pappa Eggplant’s father) was so upset that he said, “Are they going to send their daughter over to my house in a horse and carriage too?!” Since the number of cakes given is a symbol of wealth, my grandma and aunts wanted my mom to ask for more cakes. Mamma Eggplant refused, citing that the cakes couldn’t possibly be eaten before they were spoiled and that were high in cholesterol so our family shouldn’t be consuming so many anyway.
Well, that was my first experience in the wonderful world of Cantonese wedding traditions. Have you guys participated in cultural wedding traditions? What were they and how did you feel about them?