Nuptial Superstitons or Traditions? Part I

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).

Of Old?

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?



Dir: Pedro Almodovar

Film critics speak of idiom. In linguistics the terms is technical. In Spanish, un idioma is a language. In ALMODOVAR’s cinema, idiom means his vast repertory of images that make the viewer breathe, feel, smell Spain.  Like magic, almost magic realism. This director captures the power of a headkerchief plus the creamy lipstick of his leading ladies, including Penelope Cruz.




Flash fiction a la CORTAZAR

At Your Fingertip

Clicking on and off, scrolling, swiping, the fingertip longed for something soft, human. Sticky smudged screens no longer satisfied any tactile sensitivity. Like a child’s thumb, the digit went to play in the warm mouth. Yet tension from the jaw tightened and brightened teeth scratched the flesh. Now to get the spitty thing out and dry to shake hands. Afraid of AIDS? Well, no, but it is flu season. Have any antibacterial solution to sanitize the situation? Sterilizing fluid hermetically sealed before popped open and sniffed may yield a sense of giddiness. Also cleans papercuts. Useful. No nailbiting, please.

From Learning to Living a Language

Of Spanish ancestry, I sustained the connection between family Spain and Canada by studying the language. Spanish has proved more enriching than one could imagine. Hotel staff in the USA, musicians and poets in Europe, all eager and thankful to speak the language of Cervantes. A tool to keep sharpened.

Lives and Times

Without Spanish, I’ve wondered, where would I be? Without Castellano, I know, I’d be without nearly a decade of accumulated experiences, small and large, which in their totality amount to a significant part of my very self. Learning a language, then, is to embark on a process of self-transformation and expansion through communication and cultural accumulation.

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Daily Prompt: Clutch with Context

via Daily Prompt: Clutch

In One Dress, One Day, Uno, the lottery ticket seller returns to his Asturian village.

Camera: Ext. Doorframe, Slightly obese mother in brown paisley smock, maroon cardigan, thick black stockings and clog-like slippers appears in doorway. She is half-smiling, half-crying, clutching a pale blue cloth handkerchief.

As soon as the widow saw her baby boy, baptized Ernesto Indalecio, she cried because he was her only child and had been partially blind since late childhood. Some possibly genetic condition had gradually affected his vision. Retinitis pigmentosa, the doctor scribbled on the original government forms. Ernesto could still distinguish light and see shapes and basic colors right before him, he could function, for which he was grateful, but was legally, officially blind.

Two strangers, Inma and Alfonsa, board a bus north from Barcelona’s largest bus terminal.

Camera:  Overhead pan of an ugly 60’s concrete bus station. Glaring fluorescent lights. Camera follows rows of orange plastic molded seats in the waiting area. Wickets organized by company and destination. Also the smoke-filled bar del viajero with a few stools and booths. ‘Official’ signs Menú del día and the usual Washroom for patrons only. Handwritten piece of paper taped on washroom door SOLO PARA CLIENTES

SFX: Garbled PA announcements in an unprofessional voice in Spanish. Low babble of foreign students’ chatter.

The lines snaked around concrete pillars and rows of bright orange seats that had survived the sixties. The rest of the Soviet-style décor was colorless. Backpackers, two Roma families, some university students, all eventually ended up on the quay.  The seniors and foreigners clutched their tickets.  The older passengers had bulky bags or items wrapped as parcels to stow in the back or above the seats.

The foreign bridal couple are reunited with the car after dealing with the thief, Francisco.

Camera:   Small square next to hotel El Palacio on Las Ramblas, street shot of the Renault 5 racing up. The French woman runs to him. They hug. At that instant, the old cabbie reappears and asks them for money.

The French woman choked up as she called out Jean! She had spent the previous hour pacing up and down the hotel corridor. She had figured out that the ID was fake and she had absolutely nothing to prove anything. They could have slit her husband’s throat! The feisty groom clutched

Authorial Dementia

“Fiction writing is about the minute details” (Derek Haines)

Derek Haines, a modest yet prolific author/blogger recounts finding silly plot and character errors in his own work. In one instance, a character’s eye colour changed. This is hard to explain away unless sophisticated contact lenses enter the plot. Oops does not work either as people do notice.

Cliché attributed to many famous figures:  “The Devil is in the details.”

An active language teacher, Haines points out the abundance of advice for authors  on grammar while highlighting how little is said about all the minor details in a functioning, realistic plot. Even more than in real life, everything must make perfect and logical sense in a novel. That is suspended disbelief, Coleridge’s term for the way readers will accept how quickly some incident followed another. It is similar to what you feel when watching a WWII movie in which everyone speaks English in Germany, France and Italy. Also the sentiment filmgoers may experience when seeing characters find parking easily in movies set in New York City.  This raises the question of continuity, a subsector in the film industry.  People are employed before and after production to ensure that the heroine is wearing the same blue blouse and pink lipstick as earlier and that the villain has the same hand bandaged as before.

One Dress, One Day tells the true tale of the theft of a wedding gown in 1990 Barcelona, I wrote it two years after the events on an old computer and equally antiquated software. A decade passed until I stumbled across the manuscript. Right away, I realized my chronological (almost documentary) account grew tedious.  No reader would care exactly how the police reacted and how many times I telephoned. No need to be clinical.  Instead, the characters needed to be fleshed out; the plot required tightening. Using stars and singers, I reinforced my existing cast. Eventually, their lives took over my writing.

Mysteriously my excellent memory of songs, TV shows, current events from 1990 played tricks on me.  Fog?  Cobwebs? Somehow, my brain telescoped remembrances from subsequent stays in Spain.  Certain that a specific song was on the radio, I double-checked only to find that the singer recorded it later than spring 1990.

Like continuity, product placement requires constant attention in Hollywood. The Michael J. Fox character in Back to the Future wore Calvin Klein underwear. Watch how many times people pick up a brand cola on the silver screen. Brands are a double-edged sword. Perhaps trademarked perhaps not, brand names instantly provide temporal and cultural references. Anyone who spent time in France before 2000, knows the smell and name of a popular cigarette, Gitanes.  Americans would relate  readily to the Marlboro man, but at one point this brand, like Camel,  became more popular abroad than in the USA.

Imports and international luxury brands regularly function as markers of class or exoticism. Designer counterfeits of perfume or aftershave abound. In fact, fake Levis products might outnumber the real deal. Not to mention the ubiquitous Louis Vuitton bag of the 1990s which accompanies questionable pashmina in One Dress, One Day.

Time Travel:  Rewind

Bus schedules also required careful consideration. I swore that there was a late bus from the village in Asturias to Gijón or Santander. The bus line could confirm current timetables but nothing from 1990. It was indeed possible to catch the bus from Barcelona to San Sebastián and arrive before midnight.  However the whole story happens within twenty-four hours during Holy Week (Semana Santa) when family visits, tourist excursions and religious processions change traffic. Much time was spent pouring over maps of Barcelona, especially Las Ramblas.

Research on line proved that the Hotel Cristina still existed in the Basque seaside town.  A sense of comfort, of course, as the story takes place in the past. Yet, we do like to know about the grand old buildings of travels or childhood. We carve a place of honour in the memory for them.  No culinatry worries as Patates costabravenses and greasy churros remain regular features in Spain, regardless of year or region.

In the end, the actual transactions involving the wedding gown are detailed but rely largely on luck plus short distances and no cell phones back in 1990!  Is it souvenir, suspended disbelief or nostalgia? 

See some of Derk Haines’ other articles




Dir: Pedro Almodovar DoP: José Luis Alcaine Year: 2004 Purchase U.S. Purchase U.K.

via Bad Education — FilmGrab

Una imagen, un recuerdo. Just one image like this and I’m in the Spanish director’s universe. A vivid voyage elsewhere to a vibrant spot in time. Pedro’s vision makes me see slightly differently. His choices of detail, music and colour enchant me as  I feel they match mine but enhanced.  My manuscript pays humble homage to his cinema.

MALA EDUCACION had a nasty twist that shocked me [spoiler alert]. VOLVER with its haunting melody and enchanting world of women remains another favourite.  Once a friend spotted me exiting the theatre on a rainy afternoon and asked me why I was  dressed up (tight jeans, a Chanel jacket, make-up, pearls). My immediate reply:  Acabo de ver una pelicula de ALMADOVAR Claro, he said, nodding. Of course, I had just seen an #almadovar film. What else could explain it?

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