Family Tradition And The ‘Ribbon Pull’

by Sandra Foyt on October 11, 2007

in Traditions

ribbon.jpgMy sister surprised me when she asked me to introduce the Argentinian wedding cake tradition at her reception. I never told her that I lied at my wedding when I said that in Argentina there is a wedding cake tradition involving charms.

I rarely tell lies, and when I do there is some basis in truth.

Family Traditions

When I was a young girl, my family moved a lot. We were rarely in the same home, or even together, for more than a few months at a time. There was little consistency, and certainly no shared rituals. I instituted new family traditions when my baby sisters were born. It wasn’t much, but I took charge of the Christmas and Easter holidays and decided exactly how we would celebrate. Then, I enforced those new customs every year. After a while, they were accepted as our family tradition.

Social scientists would describe me as the ‘keeper’ of the family culture. As such, I introduced family traditions to “ensure that the warmth and closeness of family bondage” grew. Our family grew closer through shared traditions, but we also lost emotional closeness as our busy lifestyles and physical distance shaped our “entropic family.”

I’m hoping that cell phones, a family blog, and frequent reunions will help us overcome our tendency toward entropy.

Wedding Traditions

As the oldest, I also influenced my family’s wedding traditions.

My mother is Argentine and I spent my earliest years in Buenos Aires. During that time, I attended a wedding where all the unmarried girls pulled a ribbon attached to a charm out of the wedding cake. At my wedding, I decided to acknowledge my Argentine heritage by reenacting this custom and declaring the ritual part of a typical Argentine wedding.

Well, it did happen at one Argentine wedding. Later, I discovered that the ‘ribbon pull’ is actually a Victorian wedding reception event and the British ascribe the following meanings to the charms:

The ring for marriage within a year;

The penny for wealth, my dear;

The thimble for an old maid or bachelor born;

The button for sweethearts all forlorn.

It’s possible that the ‘ribbon pull’ did become a part of Argentinian wedding traditions due to the strong British influence that helped shape this nation. Other British customs that remain very much alive in Argentina include: rugby, cricket, 5 o’clock tea, country clubs, and pubs.

Interestingly, I’ve also discovered claims that the ‘pull a ribbon’ tradition has been around in New Orleans since at least 1928. Of course, there are variations on the symbolic meaning of the charms. (Click here for the New Orleans’ tradition.)

Modern brides can choose from a dizzying variety of charms. (Click here for pictures and meanings.) They are also putting a new spin on this tradition by using the ribbon pull at showers or other celebrations. Sometimes, they even pull the ribbons out of a floral centerpiece instead of a cake.

Meanwhile, I couldn’t neglect an opportunity to start a new wedding tradition. At my sister’s rehearsal dinner, I presented the couple with a sterling silver arras (coin holder) and thirteen coins (symbolic of Christ and his 12 apostles) with a gift tray. Traditionally, in Latin American weddings the groom gives the bride the coins as a symbol of his trust and as a pledge of his support. In accepting the coins, the bride demonstrates her trust in the groom’s ability to support and care for her.

The beauty of having no traditions is the freedom to choose new traditions. Even my sister isn’t immune to the allure of invoking new elements from our heritage. At the wedding, guests paid to dance with the wedding couple in a ‘Money Dance.’ I think the bride picked up this custom from her teen years in Puerto Rico, but Wikipedia claims that the ‘Money Dance’ originated as a Polish custom.

With our mixed bag of cultural heritage, it will be interesting to see which family traditions are passed on to the next generation.

If you would like to receive free articles from On Living By Learning by email, click this link.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

LivingByLearning October 14, 2007 at 2:33 pm

I just found another source that describes the ‘ribbon cake’ as an Argentine wedding tradition. Take a look at Latino Wedding Traditions at

Keydren July 20, 2011 at 2:53 am

This does look prosiming. I’ll keep coming back for more.

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: