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“It’s tradition!” – How to Balance between the Old and the New

Posted Feb 07 2012 10:06pm

Posted in | February 4, 2012 |


By contributor Noch Noch

traditional Chinese wedding

traditional Chinese wedding

“But the groom is not supposed to see your wedding gown before the wedding!”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because it’s tradition!!!”

I nearly choked on the tea I was drinking. Just because it’s tradition and therefore it should be done? I wasn’t too convinced.

As with many things in life, I find tradition slightly suffocating at times, and try always to break through, or innovate. Yet, not every new ritual is easily accepted. Every day we face a choice of following what has already been done, versus what we would like to do. Even in writing a blog post, do we follow guidelines established over the years, or weave sentences the way we want?

Blatantly, I dismissed my friend’s remark with a shrug, silently murmuring to myself at how boxed up her thoughts are. I wore the gown for some pre-wedding photos with my fiancé. In fact, he had seen photos of the gown and “approved” of my purchase even when I was shopping for a gown, as he’s a man steeped in the fashion industry.

I was quite happy. But still my friend’s remark lingers at the back of my mind as we plan for our wedding in May.

Raised in Hong Kong, and having lived all over the world, I bring with me Chinese traditions and an understanding of international ones. My fiancé is from Australia, and obviously there are practices to be respected from down under. I wonder then, when do we follow traditions, and when do we not?

I’m not too sure. On one hand, if there were no creations and breakaway from tradition, the society would not advance. If we had kept the tradition of not bathing safe for once a month, we’d all have perished due to foul hygiene and ill health as a result. And if Picasso had painted as all other artists before him, we would not have Impressionism, or any other kind of creative arts for that matter.

However, long standing traditions and culture such as etiquette, chivalry, manners, must exist for a reason? Other practices such as firecrackers for Chinese New Year, or giving gifts at Christmas all have a reason behind them. I respect the lucky symbolism of red in China and sending Christmas greetings to friends and family as The Three Wise Men once did when they visited Jesus in the little manger in Bethlehem.

Yet, when one implements traditions for the sake that it’s simply a tradition, I beg to differ. It seems to me, a blind worship without understanding the reasons behind why we must perform certain actions.

I resorted to my google search for “wedding traditions,” and was largely overwhelmed. From the Western side, there were things like the garter, wearing something borrowed and blue, the bridal party, leaving the gown undone till the day and tossing the bouquet etc. From the Chinese side, the list is longer than Rapunzel’s hair! Tea ceremony, seeds to throw at the bride, the red umbrella, combing of hair at midnight, the dowry, the gifts, the cookies, the traditional red gown, the blankets to use on wedding night…

Some had reasonable explanations behind them; others were mere superstition, as was prohibiting the groom to see the wedding gown before the wedding day.

Going through our pre-wedding photos, I had a good think about this balance between the old and the new, not only for our wedding, but also for other aspects of life in general.

When faced with the question of following tradition or not, I suggest a decision making / thinking process as follows to find the balance:

My fiancé and I reached a consensus to follow the Western tradition of walking down the aisle in a white gown, because we think it is important for us to say our vows in front of our family and friends and show our commitment to each other. We will also arrange a Tea Ceremony as per Chinese ways with our family and relatives, where we kneel and pour tea for our parents, as a gesture of gratitude and respect for having brought us up with love and kindness as we set about a new life of our own.

As for the rest, well, if on the day we want some fun tossing the bouquet, we might. And if we decide that we won’t give any speeches at the dinner banquet, we won’t.

Every circumstance is different and depends how we apply these traditions. Perhaps a blend is how we innovate and create, whilst maintaining harmony between generations and different thoughts.

In every day life, we continue to juxtapose between the traditions and ground breaking thoughts. Today we do not send hand written letters, but rather type out an email, or I have taken to free text messages via apps on my phone. Nonetheless, I find it heartwarming when once in a while, I receive snail mail, signed and sealed with paper and ink. What we do in each situation is unique but what is crucial is that we make up our own minds.

Find your own equilibrium between following conventions and crafting a way of your own.

What do you think about traditions? Did you have to break some or are you protecting them?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Keep the old and the new balanced!

Noch Noch worked in banking as an international executive for the last 7 years and had to quit her job last year due to major depression and severe migraines, and now reflecting on different recovery methods and how to be true to herself at “Be Me. Be Natural.” .

photo credit: amrufm

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