CNY series: On the second day of New Year…Mandarin oranges

On the second day of New Year my mama said to me
2. Mandarin oranges…

When we go visiting during Chinese New Year, we usually bring Mandarin oranges. These oranges are given or exchanged in twos, not one or three. Even when money is given in red packets, it is usually an even number and not odd. The number 4 is to be avoided when putting money in red packets because of what ‘4’ sounds like in Chinese. This number is avoided like the number 13 is avoided.

Mandarin oranges look like gold, and when given in pairs, it is also returned in pairs, symbolic of the giving and returning of good fortune to the people you are visiting or who are visiting you. Why Mandarin oranges and not just any oranges? Well, in Cantonese, Mandarin oranges are called ‘kam’ which sounds like gold, hence the use of Mandarin oranges and not just any oranges.

Two Mandarin oranges are given to the person you are visiting. If one is married, then a hong bao is also included in the exchange. In Chinese culture or beliefs, things are given in pairs. We would never call two oranges a pair of oranges in English, but the understanding in Chinese is that it has to be a pair of oranges as odd numbers usually depict loneliness or an odd one out.

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One thought on “CNY series: On the second day of New Year…Mandarin oranges

  1. Pingback: An initiation into nobility | Sudah makan? Have you eaten?

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