Category Archives: wedding customs

Heritage-class Basket Cases

I remember two kinds of Peranakan legacy “baskets” that my family used to possess, but have lost them through unredeemable, basket case ignorance. 

There was a black-and-red type, with lacquered finish. They called it “sia nah” or “bakul sia” – (谢篮) meaning “thanksgiving basket”. We used it to carry nonya kueh and other goodies as gifts when visiting friends and relatives.

The other type was made probably from some kind of rattan, and had pictures of birds and flowers painted on the sides. I think it was called “hua nah” (花篮) meaning “flower basket”.  It was used mainly to carry pre-wedding goodies from the groom’s side to the bride’s home.

Both types were available in single-tier or multi-tier configurations.  Alas, we do not see them in use anymore.  

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Playing Chicken In The Bridal Chamber

Decades ago, it was a tradition among the Chinese to engage in fowl play as part of the wedding ceremony for a newly-married couple.

After the formalities were done at the groom’s place, the wedding party would go to the bride’s home for the rituals at the maternal side. Accompanying their return to their matrimonial home would be a rooster and a hen, which would then be released under the newly-weds’ nuptial bed.  If the rooster emerged first, that “augured” the first-born child would be a son, if the hen came out first, then a daughter.

In Chinese these are called 带路鸡  (or ‘chua lor kay’ in Penang Hokkien)

These days I believe most couples would chicken out at the prospect of having two live specimens foul up their love nest; don’t worry there are lots of mock ones available.

Dreams Of The Red Chamber Pot

Chinese literary purists may get a cardiac arrest over this “ghastly” travesty of the great classical novel, 红楼梦. 

But indeed a sparkling new spittoon with plenty of red color and the word “double-happiness” was a significant item for the marital chamber of a newly-married Chinese couple.

An “ang pow” was placed inside the potty, and then its mouth was sealed with a piece of red paper.  Once the wedding ceremony was over, a young boy would be asked to smash through the red paper seal and retrieve the red packet.   I learned  that this was to help the couple to bring forth a son soon.    True ? Am not sure.

I don’t think this practice is in vogue these days, as young couples have other more exciting wedding dreams apart from a red potty.