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On the night before the wedding, there is a beautiful ancient ritual called the hair combing ceremony that signifies the transition from childhood to adulthood. The Chinese believe that people only become adults when they get married.
The hair combing ceremony has different interpretations of how it should be done. Some believe that the bride and the groom must both perform it in order to be meaningful. Others believe that the brides alone should do it. Others believe that if the parents did not perform the ceremony, then the children should skip it.
The bride showers in water infused with pomelo leaves (you can find pomelo in an Asian grocery store–they look like giant grapefruit) and then puts on a new pair of pajamas and slippers. We like these:
A “good luck woman” (a woman with living parents, spouse, and children will come to the house to dress the bride’s hair) then brushes the bride’s hair. If the mother of the bride is a good luck woman, she should perform the ceremony. If she isn’t, you can ask another relative or family friend.
The “good luck woman” brushes the bride’s hair four times while reciting:
May your marriage last a lifetime
May you be blessed with a happy and harmonious marriage until old age
May you be blessed with an abundance of children and grandchildren
May you be blessed with longevity
The groom’s ceremony is called “capping” and because men used to coil their hair into buns and cover it with a cap. The capping ceremony is performed by the groom’s father, who places a cap of cypress leaves on his head.
After the ceremony, the couple eats tong yuan (glutinous rice balls) as a symbol of togetherness.
Most people hold their rehearsal dinners the night before a wedding, so it can feel daunting to squeeze in the hair combing ceremony and still go to bed at a reasonable hour. We think it could be lovely to perform the hair combing ceremony at the bridal shower, but your Chinese relatives might think it is crazy.
Remember that you don’t have to perform every Chinese tradition. If you elect to forgo this ritual, try to do something special with your parents to celebrate the transition from childhood to adulthood. Even if you have considered yourself to be an adult for many years, it’s still a nostalgic time for your parents. What better way to make this transition than setting aside a special time to convey your gratitude to them.