Good riddance to a bittersweet 2011 – here’s to a happy 2012!

by Forager on January 1, 2012

There is an undeniable sense of guilt-ridden déjà vu as I write these words: “I’m sorry for the absence and the lack of posts of late”. I’m not sure where the cultural custom owes its roots, but for guilty Chinese children confessing their sins, the customary stance is to have your head bowed, pulling on each earlobe between thumb and forefinger. So consider this my cathartic figurative earlobe pulling session.

It’s not for lack of blog content to write – there is certainly plenty of that building up. This year will forever be memorable for me – for both intensely joyful and heartbreakingly sad reasons. I feel the entire year has blustered along at breakneck pace, with a dramatic crescendo in the last few months. If the saying goes, when it rains it pours, then with the close of the year looming, we’re just wading our way out of a flash flood. We’ve attended 6 weddings and a funeral this year.

As I’ve mentioned in some of my recent posts, the Co-pilot and I got engaged midway through the way and are now up to our eyeballs in wedding planning. So on top of the 6 friends’ weddings we attended, we actually held our own “wedding” of sorts too – so I guess that’s actually a total of 7 weddings this year. We had our tea ceremony a few weeks ago, a very small intimate ceremony with only our immediate family in attendance, so as I like to call it, we’re “Chinese married” now as until Western influences infiltrated China, the Chinese tea ceremony was the only recognized and legitimate Chinese marriage ceremony. Certainly when my parents were married in a small rural village in China, they only had a tea ceremony.

The tea ceremony is usually an intimate but not exactly ‘casual’ affair. Essentially in a nutshell,  the groom takes auspicious gifts and offerings to the bride’s family home and offers them in exchange for the bride, then tea is offered to family members who upon drinking the tea accept the new couple and provide them a gift and blessing in return – or at least that’s what happens for Southern Cantonese tea ceremonies. Sounds simple right? Well, when held in the traditional manner, there are strict rules, processes and family hierarchies to be observed and respected. For the uninitiated, it’s a veritable familial minefield – offer tea to someone out of hierarchical turn or bring something regarded as an inauspicious gift say, and noses could be put out of joint permanently and the simmerings of a bitter family feud could be seeded.

Thankfully though, all went well on our tea ceremony – we actually really enjoyed the old school traditional elements and thought them very sweet. For instance, I had to sit in my old bedroom in my parent’s house and wait for the Co-pilot to collect me and lead me by the hand out to where our parents were waiting to start the tea ceremony. An act we both had to giggle at since I’d effectively left the house in which we both cohabit in a day earlier to drive to my parents’ house just so the Co-pilot could drive out there the next day with pomp and parade and take me back to our home. These days in Western societies often both the tea ceremony and the Western wedding ceremony and reception are all conducted on the same day – but we really appreciated having the separate day for the tea ceremony. We definitely spent more time enjoying and savouring the significance of the process than we would have otherwise if it were on the same day as our Western wedding. But crucially, the tea ceremony was very important to my parents and now in their eyes we’re now married. That other Western ceremony with the white dress thing – the one that happens to be the legal requirement for marriage in Australia – they think that’s just a formality.

Of course a post wouldn’t be complete without a photo or two so below are a few of us from our tea ceremony (deliberately obscure to protect me from being thumped for revealing identities). One is of us being ushered by my mother, her iron grip propelling us forward to where the Co-pilot’s parents sat waiting for us to offer them our cup of tea and kick off the tea ceremony; and the delicious whole roast pig (of course there was one) – one of the traditional gifts the groom offers the bride’s family at the tea ceremony.

Being ushered along during our tea ceremony

Being ushered along during our tea ceremony

The delicious whole roast pig delivered by the Co-pilot for our tea ceremony

The delicious whole roast pig delivered by the Co-pilot for our tea ceremony

On a more somber note, on top of the particularly stressful and angst ridden professional work year; our inner circle of family and friends have been plagued by more than our fair share of serious health issues this year – not to mention my own little collapsed lung episode. And just a week ago, someone so very dear to me passed away after a long, protracted battle with illness and a part of me will be forever lost with them. It wasn’t unexpected yet still such a rude, surreal shock when it happened that I was left feeling that time had cheated on me. I am left full of regret of heartfelt monologues left unsaid, actions gone wanting, a last hug and kiss unfulfilled. I now know there are times when even “I love you” and “I miss you” feel like flimsy, superficial, throwaway expressions that don’t begin to adequately convey the true depth of emotion. Life and time aren’t accommodating to one’s personal expectations of how sequences should play out and it is a painful reminder that there is no reason to save up all your expressions of love for when the time is right. The time should always be right and today is as good a time as any – but you don’t learn these lessons until the opportunity is no longer there.

I can’t remember another year that I’ve felt so very glad to be over. With joy, happiness, love and grief so intertwined, ‘bittersweet’ would be an apt description. So my new year’s resolution is to ensure I spend more time with loved ones and with the hindsight wisdom of “Carpe Diem“, to communicate and demonstrate love whenever the desire takes me. I wish everyone a truly fantastic new year and a very healthy 2012 filled with an abundance of bliss, happiness and of course good food!

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Richard Elliot January 1, 2012 at 3:51 am

That certainly does look like a firm grip on the arm!

I have lost two grandparents in December, so it’s definitely been a bittersweet year for me as well. As you say a little part of you is always lost. But I have great memories and I know my grandmother would give me a firm telling off if I grieved for too long.
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2 Gaby January 1, 2012 at 3:49 pm

So you’re officially married, yay! Congrats! Bad things in life make us appreciate the good moments and learn not to attach to anything.
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3 Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul January 1, 2012 at 9:45 pm

LOL @ your mother’s grip…seriously, congratulations to you and the co-pilot. I think your description of “bittersweet” is perfect. wishing all the best for 2012 Trina….Happy new year!
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4 Tina@foodboozeshoes January 3, 2012 at 11:12 am

Congrats on getting ‘married’, Trina – looking gorgeous too! Here’s to a less bitter and more sweet 2012!
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5 shaz January 10, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Congratulations! Love that photo of your mum making sure you get to the right place :) Sorry for your loss and may 2012 be a lighter, happier year filled with great things
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6 Rosie January 11, 2012 at 6:40 am

OH yes what a year it has been for you. Painful, fun and very growing! You are starting 2012 in fine form and may it continue for unfold and flourish XXXRosie
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7 Sophia January 11, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Beautifully put Trina. My heart goes out to you.

To a happy and healthy 2012 – and many more blogposts!

8 Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) January 13, 2012 at 1:38 am

The husband and I had our tea ceremony (and legal registry signing) a whole 6 months prior to our Western civil ceremony and Chinese banquet reception. Something to do with auspicious dates in a particularly good year for marriage. Apparently.

Congratulations and a happy New Year to you and the Co-pilot!
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9 Tori @ eatori January 14, 2012 at 2:08 am

Sending both congratulations and commiserations. There’s nothing like some salt to make the sweet even more so. Hoping this year treats you more kindly.

10 The Food Sage January 15, 2012 at 6:26 pm

Good to have your back. Here’s to a happy – and healthy – 2012!
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11 Simon @ the heart of food January 17, 2012 at 12:15 am

It has been a tough year for many from what I understand, so hopefully the trials and tribulations of the year past has paved the way for a better year to come.

Congratulations on partially tying the knot. I hope the rest of the journey is smooth and trouble-free.

12 Arjee January 19, 2012 at 12:43 pm

Whew! The food are mouth watering! Especially the roasted pig or lechon in the Philippines. I love it so much!
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13 Angel Collins January 19, 2012 at 2:17 pm

So that is how tea ceremony works. That is a nice and sweet ceremony. I think I will suggest that to my friend who will be getting married by march I think. Even though they’re not Chinese, I think it would be fine to follow also?. Nice post!
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14 Jen January 20, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Aww, sorry to hear about your loss. I’m also very excited to read that you’re “officially” married now! Congrats! x
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15 Vernon January 21, 2012 at 3:20 am

Glad to have you back. All my best wishes for this year be with you. I look forward for your updates every now and then. Hope that you have a plentiful new year and more powers.
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16 Simon Food Favourites January 25, 2012 at 4:07 pm

I hope the new year brings happier times for you and your family. I’m sure your prays for your dear friend will be heard and give them comfort in knowing how much you loved them. May they be in a better place now without fear and discomfort. Congratulations on your engagement and I hope the wedding (Western one) is a huge success. It sounds like the tea ceremony was an interesting cultural experience and one that was also rewarding to go through.
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17 Herbert January 27, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Congratulations to you and the Co-pilot. I hope that 2012 will be a more exciting year for both of you.
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18 Trissa February 13, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Hi Trina – definitely such a bittersweet year for you! Congratulations on Part 1 of your wedding – looking forward to hearing about Part 2 – when is that happening? And sorry about your loss. I lost my little dog last year as well – I would love to say that time heals all wounds, but it doesn’t. Even if I’ve got a new little furry friend, I still miss my Bizou badly. But having said that… time does make it easier. Take care. Let’s catch up for coffee soon?

19 Paul February 16, 2012 at 10:34 am

That is a pig alright

20 Wine Travel Time February 21, 2012 at 7:38 pm

Love, love, love your blog Trina and Matthew and I can’t wait to see you this weekend to raise a glass and help you celebrate 2012 – a year full of happiness, family and friends. We hope to see you often and over delicious food and wine!
Lots of love, Steph and Matthew x
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21 Angie February 26, 2012 at 3:44 pm

Ok I just went backwards from the next post – congratulations Trina and Mr Co-Pilot!. I’m sorry for your loss, ive been to my fair share of weddings and funerals too in the last year and one funeral was most unexpected. Hopefully 2012 will be a great year of new beginnings for you :)
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22 Forager June 10, 2012 at 12:03 am

Hey Richard – Thanks for the kind words and my sincere condolences for your loss as well.

Hey Gaby – A belated thank you! And you’re right, the bad moments really help us appreciate the good!

Hey Pete – Yep, my mum was determined to make the ceremony happen! It took us 10 years to get there, and there was no chance of cold feet with her grip on my arm!

Hey Tina – Many thanks!

Hey Shaz – Thanks for the kind wishes and a belated return wish to you too!

Hey Rosie – Ah, learning and growing is a tough and painful process – thankfully I have such great support in my new family :)

Hey Sophia – *Big hugs*

Hey Rita – One of my good friends had to go through exactly the same thing as you, and another actually split their western ceremony over two days for auspicious reasons. Gets a bit out of hand these lucky omens!

Hey Tori – Eloquently put!

Hey Food Sage – Glad to be back as well!

Hey Simon – thank you and thanks for the support when I needed it during the conference

Hey Arjee – Yep, the pig was as amazing as it looks! Went it in flash!

Hey Angel – I think that if the ceremony means something to you then I don’t see why non-Chinese can’t incorporate the tea ceremony into their wedding. I’ve certainly seen Buddhist, Hindu and cultural ceremonies incorporated into western weddings before.

Hey Jen – thanks!

Hey Vernon – thank you and belated wishes to you too!

Hey Simon – thank you for the kind words, I think they’re in a better place now too, and yes, the tea ceremony was a very interesting and moving experience. Really glad we did it.

Hey Herbert – Thanks and we hope so too!

Hey Trissa – Part 1 and 2 went well and yes, that coffee is long overdue!

Hey Paul – that it is Paul, that it is

Hey Steph – Thank you and thank you so much for all your help! We owe you a (big) drink!

Hey Angie – Thank you and let’s hope it a better year for both of us!

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