I grew up in upstate New York, about three hours north of NYC, with my parents and siblings. The rest of my family lived in NYC so we were always visiting for holidays, birthdays, summer or when we had time off from school. We, of course, would come down to celebrate Chinese New Year with our family, and go home with a car full of chickens, fish, vegetables, fruit, candies, calendars, and decorations. We would spend the next week or so eating all of the traditional Chinese New Year foods. I distinctly remember the bags of oranges, tangerines, and the huge pomelo. There were always multiple bags and each of the bags were completely filled. My mom would give some of the oranges and tangerines away, the tangerines with stems would be placed on top of the TV and stove, and the rest we ate for what seemed like forever. The amazing thing is my grandmother through her 70’s (she is now in her 80’s) would somehow carry these heavy bags of fruits from the market to her home for us.
Chinese Word Symbolism (the reason why you see these fruits everywhere during Chinese New Year)
- Oranges (橘, ju) is similar to the Chinese word for lucky (or gold/wealth) (聚, ju).
- Tangerines (桔, ju) is similar to the Chinese word for luck (吉, ji).
- Pomelo (油字, you zi), the largest citrus fruit that tastes like a grapefruit, symbolizes abundance because it’s Chinese character sounds like “to have” (有, you).
What I Do
- About 2 weeks before Chinese New Year I buy:
- a pomelo
- at least 12 oranges
- at least 12 tangerines
- tangerines with stems (few days before New Year’s Day). I buy a pair for each place I want to put them. For example, I want to put them on top of the TV and the stove, so I buy 4. Note: try to buy the ones with the healthiest looking leaves. If you don’t, by the time New Year’s day comes, your leaves will be dried out (like mine pictured above).
- I arrange oranges, tangerine and the pomelo in a fruit bowl. Oranges and tangerines on the bottom, pomelo on top.
- We try to eat oranges and tangerines everyday until days or a week after Chinese New Year (to keep the Chinese New Year luck going as long as possible). I buy more if I run out.
- Whenever we visit with friends and family, I try to give oranges and tangerines.
Rules to Keep in Mind
- DO buy tangerines with leaves because the leaves represent longevity. Use them for home decoration and gifts.
- DO serve oranges and tangerines at the end of a meal because their sweetness represents luck.
- DO bring oranges and tangerines as gifts when visiting family and friends. The bright orange color symbolizes gold, luck, and wealth.
- DON’T serve or give 4 oranges or tangerines because the number 4 (四, si) sounds like the word for death (死, si). Avoid giving any number with a 4 in it, like 14 or 40. Give 2, 6, 8, 9 because these are all lucky numbers.
- DO use decorations with oranges and tangerines as a symbol of good luck.
What do you do with your lucky fruits?
The Dumpling Mama xo