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October 12, 2005

We Participate in a Chinese Wedding!

The week of October 1 is one of Chinas three take-off-work holidays.

Most people are off work Monday through Friday, but have to work a weekend, so that the holiday is actually only three days. October 1 is Guoqing Jie, or National Holiday, and commemorates the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. The other two holidays are Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) and May Day.

Last year – it hardly seems as though it could be that long – Terry and I went to visit our friends in Zhengzhou. This year, we stayed in Nantong, except for a two-day outing to Shanghai to celebrate Rosh Hashanah (that other New Year). We came back from Shanghai in time to attend an event that we had eagerly awaited all year – the wedding celebration of our friends Tao Hong and Liu Zheng. I say “wedding celebration,” because it works differently here. Couples get their marriage license, at which point they are legally married, and then wait at least several months to have their big celebration. The first event is sort of like an “engagement” in the US, except that it is legally binding. Anyway, like museum openings and much else in China, lots of dramatics accompany wedding celebrations. The host was a combination of judge, stand-up comic, singer, poet, and magician. Life-size wedding photos decorated the hotel restaurant where the even was held. The beautiful bride changed dresses twice, wearing the three very different gowns for three different phases of the celebration.

We have been invited to several friends’homes for dinner, but this was our first invitation to a family event, and we were really excited about it. A little nervous, too. We did not have the opportunity to simply relax and enjoy the show. I was honored to be the “zhenghunren” (witness), which mean I had to give a 5-minute speech – in Chinese. This is the role normally played by a person's "lingdao" (work unit leader), but I don't think many foreigners actually have a chance to do so. After dinner, Terry sang her favorite wedding song, “Annie’s Song” (in English).

Four days later, we were invited to another wedding, but this time we just relaxed and enjoyed the show.

-- Norty

Posted by now at October 12, 2005 01:28 PM