Did you know that Chinese New Year is also known as “Spring Festival”? How nice to focus on something that lifts us out of winter! Chinese New Year falls on Friday, January 31 this year, and is the year of the horse. We see the brilliant red and gold decorations and special celebrations that mark the occasion, but guess what! There are also special plants associated with the holiday, so make a cup of green tea and sit down with me and I’ll tell you about my Chinese New Year research.
Whenever I have seen pictures of Chinese New Year celebrations, there always seems to be a dragon dance, with a brightly colored “dragon” manned by many people, weaving through the crowds. This is actually not a dragon but a lion, which goes from place to place collecting offerings along the way. As the lion moves along, he “eats” bunches of vegetables and lettuce which are hung out for him. This is called “choi cheng”, or “picking the green”. The lion “chews” the lettuce and then spits it out — this symbolizes that he has accepted the offering, and that there will be good luck and plenty in the year ahead for the family or business that he has just visited.
When you go shopping, buy a few mandarin oranges for the New Year’s celebrations. The mandarin represents the sun and the positive force of nature. Because the Chinese name of the mandarin is very similar to the Chinese word for good fortune, the fruit represents good luck as well. I read that two mandarin oranges and a red envelope of money is placed by the pillow of each child in the family for good luck in the coming year, and mandarin oranges are also placed on the rice container to bring good luck to the entire home.
Add a couple of pomelos to your list.
The Chinese word for pomelo is “you”, and “you” sounds much like the word that means “to have”. So this is another symbol of prosperity, but buy two, because the Chinese believe that good things come in pairs! Still in the citrus family, kumquats represent wealth and good fortune, so we should have a handful of those as well!
What about some flowers? I learned that the Chinese love the peach blossom for New Year’s. When a Chinese family buys a branch of peach blossoms to decorate their home for the holiday, they put the branch into the oldest vase they have, believing that it will bloom longer. The peach represents longevity.
I also read some very interesting information about three plants called “Three Friends Of Winter”. What a beautiful name for the pine, the plum, and the bamboo. The pine and the bamboo stay green over winter, and the plum is the first thing to bloom in the spring. Together, the plants represent strength in difficult conditions. The pine stands for longevity and nobility. The straight, strong bamboo stands for integrity and humility, and for being flexible but strong in the storms of life. The lovely plum stands for purity; and with pretty blooms that have five petals, it has even more meaning because five is a very important number in Chinese culture. Five stands for the Five Blessings, which are health, love of virtue, wealth, old age, and natural death.
Gardeners, the first meeting of the Yorkton and District Horticultural Society will be on Thursday, February 20, with special guest Frank Woloschuk speaking about succulents and what’s new for spring. It will be a great meeting, hope to see you there!
Have a great week!