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Kung Hei Fat Choi!

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Usher in health, wealth and happiness at Chinese New Year with festive finery and flowers. Samantha Wong finds out how

This Chinese New Year (CNY) begins on the new moon of February 8. It’s the most important holiday in the Chinese calendar, and the time when we habitually open our doors to friends and loved ones. Since we are about to enter the Year of the Red Fire Monkey, denoting 12 months of high-octane activity and change, there’s plenty to celebrate.

When visiting friends, don’t forget to bring them a bag of oranges or tangerines with leaves intact – this will promote good relations in the coming year. You will also want to hand out dollar-filled lai see packets to people who do stuff for you, including younger co-workers, helpers and doormen.

Tradition also dictates that you lay out a candy tray over the holidays, filled with candied melons for good health, and red melon seeds symbolising happiness. It should also contain dried lychees and desiccated coconut to promote strong family ties, kumquats for prosperity, and peanuts for long life.

Customs worth keeping

The traditional way to decorate at Lunar New Year is to hang auspicious red paper scrolls, emblazoned with the Chinese characters for good fortune, wealth and the coming of spring. Place these scrolls upside down on your front door, where they will bid guests a warm welcome and signify good times ahead.

Since the colour red represents luck, prosperity and happiness, it’s a perennially popular decorating choice at CNY, so be sure to style up your home with a few bold Shanghai-red accents. This is easily done with well-chosen, inexpensive home accessories, like scatter cushions, table napkins and candles. Note that red monkey figurines are likely to sell like hot cakes this year, as are red flowers of every variety.

As with almost all activities at CNY, there is enormous symbolism in the use of flowering plants. Potted plants (rather than cut blooms) are the number one essential, since they represent new life. When choosing plants, ask your florist which ones are likely to bloom on February 8, as this way you’ll be guaranteed 12 months of good luck.

The Chinese language opens up endless opportunities for punning, and this is demonstrated in the flowers that are most sought-after at CNY. For instance, people rush to buy miniature kumquat plants (Gam Gat Sue) with their little golden fruits. This is because the word Sue rhymes with the Cantonese word for luck (F?) and the Cantonese word for gold is Gam.

Peach blossom is considered the most auspicious of all plants at this time of year. Its significance lies in the symbolic importance of the peach, which, in Chinese culture, signifies long life, and is regarded as the strongest defence against evil. Red peonies (the flower of riches and honour) are also an essential buy, since they are believed to usher in prosperity. Happy holidays!

Image: wikimedia.org

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