Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Extreme Makeover

Prior to Chinese New Year, Chinese families spend a vast amount of time decorating their living rooms with vases of pretty blossoms, platters of oranges and tangerines and a candy tray with eight varieties of dried sweet fruit.

Usually on walls or doors one might find poetic couplets, happy wishes written on red paper. These messages, more tailored than the typical fortune cookie messages, try to engage the year in a positive and prosperous event, so be it "May you enjoy continuous good health" or "May the Star of Happiness, the Star of Wealth and the Star of Longevity shine on you."

Plants and Flowers
Chinese household should have live blooming plants to symbolize rebirth and new growth. Flowers are believed to be symbolic of wealth and high positions in one's career.

Lucky is the home with a plant that blooms on New Year's Day, for that foretells a year of prosperity. In more elaborate settings, plum blossoms just starting to bloom are arranged with bamboo and pine sprigs, the grouping symbolizing friendship.

The plum blossom also signifies reliability and perseverance.

The bamboo is known for its compatibility, its utility and its flexible stems for furniture and other articles. The evergreen pine evokes longevity and steadiness. Other highly prized flowers are the pussy willow, azalea, peony and water lily or narcissus.

Chinese believe that without flowers, there would be no formation of any fruits. They are the emblems of reawakening of nature; they are also intimately connected with superstition and with the wish for happiness during the ensuing year.

Oranges and Tangerines
Etiquette dictates that you must bring a bag of oranges and tangerines or at least an even number of them, and enclose a red envelope (lai see) when visiting family or friends anytime during the two-week long Chinese New Year celebration.

Tangerines with leaves intact assure that one's relationship with the other remains secure. For newlyweds, this represents the branching of the couple into a family with many children.

Oranges and tangerines are symbols for abundant happiness.

Candy Tray
The candy tray arranged in either a circle or octagon is called "The Tray of Togetherness".

After taking several pieces of candy from the tray, adults places a red envelope (lai see) on the center compartment of the tray. Each item represents some kind of good fortune.

  • Candied melon - growth and good health
  • Red melon seeds - dyed red to symbolize joy, happiness, truth and sincerity
  • Lychee nuts - strong family relationships
  • Kumquats - prosperity
  • Coconut - togetherness
  • Peanuts - long life
  • Longans - many good sons
  • Lotus seeds - many children

Who said that Home Makeover was simple and without framework?