My late Auntie May in Ireland wore the only family heirloom, an exquisite opal ring. She refused to hand it down to anyone not born in October, month of the opal birthstone. I coveted it, but Celtic superstitions abounded on that side of the family. Tradition or superstition, these beliefs and gestures still fascinate me. Let me share a few.
Colours and Queens
In Asia, wearing robes with embroidered cranes symbolizes fidelity for the length of a marriage. Colours vary, for example, in Korea, brides don bright hues of red and yellow to take their vows.
Queen Victoria started the Western world’s white wedding dress trend in 1840—before then, brides simply wore their best dress. In Japan, white was always the color of choice for bridal ensembles—long before Queen Victoria popularized it in the Western world.
On her wedding day, Grace Kelly wore a dress with a bodice made from beautiful 125-year-old lace. Of course, Jackie Kennedy’s bridesmaids were far from frumpy. She chose pink silk faille and red satin gowns created by designer Ann Lowe (also the creator of Jackie’s dress). We now speculate on who will design the future American princess’ dress (more next post).
Ancient Greeks and Romans thought the veil protected the bride from evil spirits. Brides have worn veils ever since. As seen in the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding, many modern Greeks spit figuratively to ward off evil, logically because the bride is too beautiful! Hubris or generally getting above one’s station remains a risk. One says phtew as if spitting. No spittle is produced. (Note: not limited to nuptials.)
Brides carry or wear “something old” on their wedding day to symbolize continuity with the past. The “something blue” in a bridal ensemble symbolizes purity, fidelity and love. My mother passed on to me the sky blue satin garter that she had worn while a cousin’s wife gave me an aquamarine blue heart charm for my wrist.
In many cultures around the world—including Celtic, Hindu and Egyptian—the hands of a bride and groom are literally tied together to demonstrate the couple’s commitment and new bond as a married couple (hence the popular phrase “tying the knot”).
Patrick, a recently departed elder of the Campbell clan in Canada, told us how this Celtic tradition was regaining ground. He had been asked to officiate in a civil ceremony including handfasting at the local Scottish games. Like jumping the broom seemed to be revived in certain part of the Southern USA, handfasting may spread, too. Of course, these moments are not part of the religious sacrament or ceremony. The recent trend of choreographed pop music entries of bridal parties may be another trend that is definitely not part of the service!
Apple of my eye or have your cake and eat it too?
Try this one, if unattached: When turning the stem of an apple before eating it, say the alphabet. The letter at which the stem comes off easily will be the first letter of your future spouse’s first or last name.
As for the old trick of putting wedding cake (in the English tradition, similar to fruitcake) under the pillow to dream of your future husband, I did it in mid-adolescence. I dreamt of the capital of France. True, I had visited the city of lights once at that point in my teens. However, I also was studying the French revolution in school. So what kind of harbinger was my sleepy vision? Some 15 years later, I married a man named… Paris! Coincidence?