Saturday, 13 February 2010

Narcisscus - Chinese New Year customs

Kung Hei Fat Choy! Chinese New Year's day 14th Feb, inaugurating the Year of the Tiger. One of the loveliest symbols of the Lunar New Year is the "Water Spirit Flower" (Sui Sien Fa in Cantonese) or Water Narcissus. These are always grown in water, without soil, to symbolize purity and bring good luck. They are grown indoors, timed to bloom in time for the festival.

These are the true Chinese cultivar, sturdier, shorter and extremely fragrant. The nearest western variety is Paperwhite which can also be forced but doesn't smell as sweet and is taller and floppier. The Chinese bulbs can also stand being carved before the leaves shoot, so the leaves grow out in ornamental forms.

Every home will have a bowl of these narcissi, also a branch of plum blossom and a small orange tree. Or at least a lot of mandarin oranges and tangerines, which are called "kum" in Chinese which is the same as "gold", ie prosperity for the New Year.

Click on the photo above to enlarge extra detail, it's wonderful! It was taken at the Chinese New Year Fair at Victoria Park in Hong Kong. (you can tell it's Hong Kong - the girls are wearing shorts in January). That fair has been held for nearly 150 years, it's massive, sells all kind of festive items, even tree-sized plum blossoms.

Tonight Chinese families feast, so tomorrow they can visit and receive visitors and nibble sweet snacks all day. All shops and businesses are closed except for toy pedlars happy to divest small kids of their lai see, gifts of money in red paper packets. Materialistic kids used to sing a song that went, "one dollar don't want, ten dollars, into the purse!"(At the exchange rate of 1 euro to 10 HK dollars, it's fair enough)
photo credits one and two.

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