Traditions: Duck, Duck, Goose for Life

From mentioning venue duck poop to duck traditions! Something for every duck enthusiast!

In traditional Korean wedding ceremonies, duck or geese carvings are used as a symbol for peace, fidelity and the future blessing of having many ducklings/kidlings. The designs are usually based off the Mandarin Duck, a species of duck commonly found to mate for life. In Chinese culture, mandarin ducks have their very own metaphor to represent a loving couple, e.g. Bob and Susan are like “two mandarin ducks playing in water.”

Side note: I always used Bob and Susan as my example names as a holdover from taking French in college. Our instructor, Pierre from Paris, ALWAYS used Bob and Susan in his examples. When we asked him why, he said in his super thick accent, “Bob et Susan…What could be more American names?” I also spent the entire year writing my essays about snakes in backpacks as “un serpent à sac à dos” was weirdly used as an example in the first chapter of the book. Spoiler alert, the French backpack snakes took many international flights in my French essays. Je suis fatigué de ces serpents motherfucking sur cet avion motherfucking! Doesn’t quite have the same feeling to it…

Ce serpent est venu à une fin malheureuse comme un sac à dos.

 But, back to ducks…

The tradition of presenting wooden ducks stems from the custom of the groom presenting his bride’s family with live ducks or geese as a present prior to marriage. As the modern woman likely does not have numerous Pinterest boards devoted to the live geese/ducks she would like to keep in her fifth-floor-walk-up studio apartment, wooden carvings became all the vogue. Wedding ducks are commonly sold as souvenirs in Korea and China, but should you want a pair of authentic loving ducks for your wedding, you best start looking for a very special wood carver as soon as possible as there are some criteria for wedding duck prototyping.

To be a good wedding duck carver, according to tradition, one must be:

  1. Wealthy.
  2. Healthy.
  3. Married to a good partner.
  4. Not have ever been divorced or have relatives who have been divorced. (This duck pond just got real small.)
  5. Have lots and lots of male children, bonus points for five sons as it aligns with Confucius’s emphasis on family strength through proliferation.

I’m going to write to David Beckham and see if he want to carve Pastry and I some wedding ducks.

Another tradition is to incorporate string on the bills of the ducks. How lovely, you are thinking, decorative wedding ducks in festive outfits! NO. The string on the female duck’s beak symbolizes how the bride should endeavor to always be quiet and support her husband in all things.

PUT A STRING ON MY LADY WEDDING DUCK AND THERE SHALL BE HELL TO PAY.

At the wedding ceremony (though this is no longer common), the ducks are wrapped in cloth with only their string-tied faces peeking out of their tea towel. Once the bride arrives, the ducks are then placed within the ceremonial table/altar. Once they get hitched, the groom’s mom whips out the string-silenced lady duck and throws it to the bride for her to catch in her skirt. If the brides successfully fields the wooden duck, she will have sons. If she was last picked for softball at recess, all lady children for her.

The couple usually keeps the wooden ducks post-wedding in a prominent place within their home. But, duck placement says a lot about how things are going in their union. Facing toward each other, duck life is great! Frolic in that water together! Facing away, no longer playing in water! Things have gotten a bit rough.

The sign that Bob and Susan are going to end up either in marriage counseling or on Maury.

So, I kind of like the idea of carved wooden ducks. But, NO STRINGS. And, really, finding a duck-carver of note may be a serious issue. Mr. Beckham, if you happen to be reading, best work on your whittling skills for next May.

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