17 January 2010

Bonbonierres - Fertility sweets?

Sunday 17th January, 2010

I spent yesterday making sample bonbonierres for my daughter's wedding. I bought netting, ribbon and sugared almonds and set up my dining room ready to await a friend for tea and help. According to Google, the concept behind Bonboniere, originated in France, around 300 years ago, when a small box of sweets (the french word - bonbons) was given away to guests on happy occasions. Over time the idea spread to other parts of Europe, and in particular to Italy and Greece. Wedding Bomboniere (the Italian spelling) consisted of an uneven number (typically 5) of sugar-coated almonds, representing the bittersweet life of a married couple. The five almonds have significant meaning - wishing the new husband & wife: happiness, health, wealth, children & a long life. The Greeks call them 'Koufeta'.

As I prepared for the afternoon's experiment, buying the netting from the Indian factory shop, the ribbon from an Afrikaans woman who is great with screen printing, the crystals from the Chinese market, the sugared almonds from a Greek shop, I thought about the benefits of living in such a cosmopolitan society such as Johannesburg has become. Every single nationality and culture is represented in Johannesburg. There are people here from every part of the world. And since 1994 our diversity is encouraged and celebrated - Nelson Mandela talks with pride about the Rainbow Nation.

Differences make life more interesting I suppose. Especially now that young people ae fusing the various customs and traditions, creating new ones. It was not always so..... no, definitely not. I remember as I was growing up under apartheid only one tradition and one way of life was celebrated or even acknowledged - that of the Afrikaner. Everything was ruled and managed according to the Calvinist tradition. It was a limiting outlook on life - a laager mentality - security was revered above freedom. It created apartheid and we all know the human devastation that resulted from that type of narrow thinking.

South Africa today is one of the freeest countries on the planet - we have one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, which enjoys high acclaim internationally. I feel priviledged to live with such freedom to be who I want to be - and worship whoever and whatever I want - it is a priviledge - and I suppose there is a price to pay for such freedom - the price I am paying for this type of freedom is horrendous crime.

I used to live in a crime free South Africa, where the government regulated every aspect of my life in order to protect me from myself - all forms of entertainment and shopping was closed from Saturday lunch time until Monday morning so that we could play sport on Saturday afternoon and go to church on Sunday. There were laws for everything - from buying of toilet paper to where you could live and who you could marry - all in an attempt to make us a safer society. As they made society safer they slowly chewed away our rights, liberties, and our personal freedoms. Where is the balance? Is a safe zombie society worth giving up our freedoms for? Where is the line between where our right to choose is more important than the government's right to impose their standards on us. Even if it's for our own good?

I am currently undediced about whether the type of security provided by a government that constantly invades my personal choice space is worth my freedom and liberty - I do know however that I am very happy to be able to celebrate my daughter's wedding freely and without restrictions - to be able make bonbonierres for fertility, happiness, health, wealth and long life. Need to go and think more about the price of this freedom .....

Till tomorrow

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