Chinese New year or Spring Festival is the most important traditional Chinese holiday. The festival traditionally begins on the first day of the first month in the Chinese (Lunar) calendar and ends on the 15th; this 15th day is called Lantern Festival.
Because the track of the new moon changes from year to year, Chinese New Year can begin anytime between late January and mid-February. This year it is coincident with western's Valentine's Day, and it is the Year of the Tiger according to Chinese Zodiac. If you were born in 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986 and 1998, you most probably are a tiger (with the exceptions of those who were born early January since it could fall into the previous year of the Lunar Calendar). You can find your exact sign here.
Chinese people loves to use abundance of fresh auspicious flowers such as peach blossoms, narcissus, orchids, and chrysanthemums and fruits such as oranges and tangerines to decorate their house. A home with a plant that bloom on New Year's Day signifies a year of prosperity. For this reason, before Lunar New Year, the city streets will look like a florists shop.
My sister, who is a professor teaching Botany at College in China, also loves gardening in her own backyard(of course!), sent me a group of photos she took at her local flower market on the street. I thought I will share with my fellow gardeners here, and hope you can share my joy through all these beautiful bouquets with me. I also included some of Chinese common names here, so if you can not recognize some characters, just ignore them :)
Oranges, tangerines, or Calamondin are symbols for abundant happiness. Tangerines with leaves intact assure that one's relationship with the other remains secure. For newlyweds, this represents the branching of the couple into a family with many children. The second picture shows Calamondins.
Branches full of Peach blossoms are sold as bundles. Peach blossom is not only the symbol of prosperity, but also is believed will bring the good luck to a person's love relationship. So families who have unmarried grow-up children would put these bundles in their house to wish their kids will find their true love in the new year.
Japanese Ardisia (紫金牛). Those red berries make this plant a perfect holiday decoration!
Chaenomeles speciosa (Flowering quince, 贴梗海棠): This ugly duckling of the garden spends most of the year as a shrubby tangle of branches and nondescript foliage. However, for a brief few weeks in late winter to early spring, it transforms into a ravishing beauty.
The plant in the middle (adore that planter!) is one kind of Orchids, Cymbidium Hybridum Hort (大花蕙兰). Seems they are mostly found in Asia. Have any of you seen this one here?
Notice the Bromeliads and phalaenopsis orchids around it? Their bright blooming colors made them very popular as New Year plants. You also can see the variegated Ginger plants in the background, which are often found in Florida garden as well. My sister lives in a city (Shen Zhen) south of China, and its climate is very similar to Florida.
Chrysanthemums: The name Chrysanthemum comes from the Greek 'chrysos' (golden) and 'anthos' (flower). Florist Chrysanthemums are native to China. The wild plant bears small yellow flowers. They have been cultivated in China for over 2500 years. The flower is considered a symbol of happiness, long life, cheerfulness, optimism, rest and ease.
The Narcissus flower is perceived quite differently in the east than in the west. Whereas in the west, the Narcissus flower is seen as a symbol of vanity, in China, the same flower is seen as a symbol of wealth and good fortune. I remember when I was little, most of my neighbors grew Narcissus in their home. Certain variety has heavenly fragrance.
Azaleas (杜鹃). I especially love the Azaleas with delicate pink colors. Oh, I also spoted my favorite Fuchsia plants next to the pink Azaleas.
Reiger Begonia (玫瑰海棠). I recently saw that they were sold at local Costco center.
There are still some more flowers which are quite common here as well, such as Hawaii Ti, Wax Begonias, Bird of Paradise and some house plants for foliage use. I won't bore you with more pictures.
It is just amazing that seems all those common plants are connecting the two sides of the world together. No matter what culture you hold, the bloomings never fail to touch the soft spots of people's heart.
So, if you celebrate Chinese New Year. Happy NEW YEAR! For the rest of you, Happy Valentine's day! Or, just simply have a good day!
For me, we will have feasts with our Chinese friends here. Phone calls will be made tomorrow morning (New Year Eve of China time) to our families. This is a day we will always hold near and dear to our hearts, no matter how far and how long we have travelled away from home....