Love, Joy and Happiness----Unique Wedding Ceremony in Northern Shaanxi

November 26, 2013
By Xia ShiwuEditor: Zhu Yanhong

Love, Joy and Happiness----Unique Wedding Ceremony in Northern Shaanxi
Weddings in the rural areas of Northern Shaanxi (in Northwest China) Province are typically events full of hustle and bustle. During a typical rural wedding, villagers dance the 'Yangge' to the sounds of 'suona' horns. The bride, who rides on a donkey's back to her new home, smiles brightly to show her happiness. [Women of China English Monthly/ Deng Hai & Li Chang'an]
Northern Shaanxi's rural residents tend to hold their wedding ceremonies during the winter. Why? That is the slack season for farmers, so they have plenty of free time to celebrate. And they do celebrate; a wedding ceremony usually lasts three days. On the first day, friends and relatives of the groom's family gather at the house of the groom's family, to congratulate the family on the joyous occasion and/or help with the ceremony, such as entertaining guests and cooking the food.

The groom's family will hire a band to ensure the atmosphere is lively when guests arrive at the house.

Early the next morning (the second day), the groom's family, with friends, will go to the village's entrance to greet the wedding procession. The procession is usually composed of 10 or fewer people (but not the bride, who remains at her home), among whom two of the women are relatives of the groom. Many of the groom's relatives, as well as villagers, carry colorful fans and umbrellas, as they are about to perform the yangge dance. The groom's mother takes the lead in the dance. After the dance, the happy crowd follows the wedding procession to the groom's house.

After the groom's family loads presents, such as new clothes, bed clothes, jewelry, food and money, on donkeys’ backs, and after firecrackers have been set off, the wedding procession leaves for the bride's house. Along the way, members of the band, from time to time, beat drums and blow trumpets to mark the happy occasion.

The band begins to play as the procession reaches the entrance to the bride's village. The bride's family will lead the people to their house, where they will serve the wedding feast.

One can eat to one's content; in addition to chicken, duck, fish and meat, the bride's family serves various local foods, such as noodles made from buckwheat, mutton soup and pickled cabbage.

In Chinese culture, the color red symbolizes joy and happiness. Therefore, the bride wears new clothes — all in red, such as a red cotton-padded jacket, a pair of red trousers, socks and shoes, and a pair of red gloves — from head to toe on her "big day."

After the feast, the groom carries his bride to a donkey and, after he places her on the animal's back, the wedding procession heads to the groom's house. The wedding ceremony — at which time the couple become husband and wife — is held after the procession arrives at the groom's house.

A competition follows the ceremony; both the bride and groom try to enter the bridal chamber first, as locals believe the person who enters the chamber first will have greater say – and influence — in the family.

A warm, joyous atmosphere permeates the bridal chamber, in which the windows and furniture are decorated with red Chinese characters that connote "double happiness." A pair of red candles keep the room lit, to symbolize the longevity of the couple as husband and wife.

After the couple toasts and drink to each other, the newlyweds exchange presents; the groom usually gives the bride money or jewelry, while the bride typically gives the groom an embroidered dudou (diamond-shaped cloth worn over the chest and abdomen). The dudou is embroidered with various auspicious patterns, such as twin lotus flowers on one stalk and mandarin ducks playing on water, to symbolize a devoted couple living in peace and harmony. It also represents good luck; for example, kylin (an auspicious legendary animal with a horn and scales) sending a son, which symbolizes good wishes that the couple will have a son as soon as possible. Finally, an elder relative of either the bride or the groom, combines locks of the bride and groom's hair, and then combs it.

On the third day, the groom, with his wife, will visit his in-laws. The bride's family will hold a banquet for the newlyweds. The couple will not return home until after dark.

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