Ever wondered why two mandarin oranges must always be exchanged with both hands? What does it even mean?
You know the four popular varieties: Lukan (芦柑 lú gān; country of origin: China), Ponkan (椪柑 pèng gān; country of origin: Taiwan), Jiaokan (蕉柑 jiāo gān; country of origin: China) and Kinnow (蜜柑 (mì gān; country of origin: Pakistan). And there are 11 different orange and pack sizes to meet the varying needs of your family — check them all out in-store!
“Orange” you looking to learn something new this year? If you are, learn more about huat it means: 5 reasons mandarin oranges rule the New Year!
1. They sound good (in many ways!)
In Chinese culture, it isn’t uncommon for different characters to sound similar but have completely different meanings. The direct translation from English to Mandarin for mandarin oranges (瓯柑; ōugān)1 means “gold and wealth” in abundance. Its Mandarin translation also sounds similar to 金, which in the Cantonese dialect of Mandarin (金, gām) means “gold”2 as well.
2. They “even” the “odds” of your luck
If there’s one thing you can remember, it should be this: even, not odd numbers. The Chinese believe that odd numbers bring bad luck and should be avoided; even numbers are thought to usher in good luck3. However, here is one exception — the number 4 (四; sì) sounds similar to 死 (sĭ), which means to die in Chinese4 — which means that you would also have to take care to avoid this number at all costs, even when it comes down to deciding how much money you should give in a red packet.
Tip: Always offer two mandarin oranges with both hands. This is the most basic form of respect in Chinese culture. Your recipient may politely refuse at first, but don’t give up — keep trying and they’ll eventually give in and exchange a pair with you!
3. They raise our fertility rates
Visiting the house of a newlywed couple? Bring along two mandarin oranges with the stem and a few of its leaves attached! Not only is it an indicator of its freshness, it also symbolises abundant luck in fertility5! If you’ve got visitors instead, leaf-on mandarin oranges are also a great substitute for a full-on tree or as decor on a table with a traditional candy tray that you would usually hand out to welcome them.
4. They symbolise fortune
Dating back all the way around the 3rd or 4th century BCE6, the principle of yin and yang states that all things exist as inseparable and contradictory opposites7. This fundamental Chinese philosophical concept underpins the meaning behind the physical appearance of mandarin oranges in Chinese culture. Not only are vivid hues like red and orange considered an auspicious colour, but the shape of mandarin oranges alone symbolise good luck! Its circular shape looks like the sun (太阳; tài yáng), aligning it with the yang (positive) principle of fortune that extends beyond the areas of wealth, good luck and fertility!
5. They are the sweetest round-up to the festivities
Also regarded as chap goh mei, the last night (15th day) of Chinese New Year is also regarded as Chinese Valentine’s Day8. This is where courtship and the possibility of romance hangs in the air. Mandarin oranges are sweet (酸酸甜甜; suān suān tián tián) — with a tinge of sourness— just like love (的爱情; dí ài qíng)!
With everything that you need to know about the reason for the tradition of this zesty fruit, happy Chinese New Year to you and your loved ones!
1 Linguee 2021[Accessed 25 January 2021]
2 Singh, B 2018, Eight Chinese New Year traditions to get right [ONLINE] [Accessed 25 January 2021]
3 Travel China Guide 2021, Lucky Numbers in China [ONLINE][Accessed 25 January 2021]
4 Syau, J 2017, Lucky and unlucky Chinese numbers [ONLINE] [Accessed 26 January 2021]
5 Elliott, S 2021, 10 Chinese New Year Food Superstitions [ONLINE] [Accessed 27 January 2021]
6 Deason, R 2021, The Hidden Meaning Behind Yin and Yang [ONLINE] [Accessed 26 January 2021]
7 Ancient History Encyclopedia 2021, Yin and Yang [ONLINE] [Accessed 27 January 2021]
8 Lin, R 2019, All for love: Orange-tossing at the right timing on the 15th day of Chinese New Year [ONLINE] [Accessed 29 January 2021]