Ever wonder why it is always orchids, clementines, peonies and cherry blossoms that take over whenever Chinese New Year rolls around? It is for symbolic or traditional meanings that help usher in luck, happiness and more
Every year thousands descend upon the flower markets in Victoria Park and Mongkok hoping to take home the best selection of spring blossoms. But flowers aren’t for decorative purposes alone over Chinese New Year. In the Chinese culture they also carry symbolic meanings, blessings and interesting legends.
Impress your family, friends and loved ones this year with a gift of flowers that come with extra thought behind its selection that’s carefully chosen for them.
While orchids come in a wide variety and are hugely popular for their bright and happy colours, the bright purple and red ones are most coveted because they represent prosperity or smooth sailing in one’s career. A common variation in the markets is moth orchids—named for how its petals resemble a resting moth—which are one of the easiest types of orchids to take care of because they are relatively drought resistant. If you don’t have much room for indoor plants, the smaller vanda orchids are a great choice, and they’re adorable, too.
The Chinese name for these dainty mandarin oranges—“ji” in mandarin and “gut” in Cantonese—is a homonym for “luck”. Giving your friends and families a clementine tree is a gesture of sending them a pot of luck. A cluster of yellow or orange fruits on a tree is also considered a lucky sight as it symbolises “a tree of gold”.
Narcissuses are sensitive to temperature and usually blossom when the mercury is higher. In Chinese tradition narcissus buds are given to relatives in winter so that they will blossom in time for the spring festival. The flowering narcissus reminds the recipient of their loved ones, which is why narcissus carries the meaning of longing for family reunions and sending kind wishes to friends and relatives.
The iconic white petals with its cheerful yellow core are also a symbol of purity: among the array of brightly coloured flowers that compete for attention, narcissus—called the “water spirit flower” in Chinese—is like a fairy that is pure of heart. This blossom is also associated with confidence.
The soft, fragile looking flowers extend upwards from long, sturdy stems, which look like a sword that can ward off evil spirits, and it represents advancing on the social ladder. But some also consider sending a bouquet of gladiolus flowers as an invitation to a tryst.
5/ Peach blossom
Peach blossoms are the trees of love in Chinese culture, and couples send them to show their devotion, but they can also represent blessings for family members and the wish for a good life. Fun fact: Tao Yuanming, a poet from the Six Dynasties period, wrote the famous poem, The Peach Blossom Spring, in which peach blossoms are one of the most memorable and representative elements of the fictional utopia.
Chrysanthemums are the favourite flower of Qu Yuan, poet and politician during the Warring States period in Chinese history. He is known for his patriotism and contributions to classical poetry and verses, and chrysanthemums have since then been affiliated with his qualities and become the symbol of resilience, especially since they flower in winter. Chrysanthemums are also widely associated with longevity and luck nowadays.
Peonies are one of the most popular subjects in ink paintings, and thanks to their constant association with the image of a scholar, they symbolise elegance, wealth and luck. When they blossom, peonies' buds open up into a robust and brightly-coloured crown with many layers, representing one’s hope for a bright future.
8/ Flaming Katy
Flaming Katy’s nickname is the “longevity flower” because this flower starts growing in tiny clusters starting from October and has a long flowering period. Sending a pot of Flaming Katy to someone means wishing your recipient good health and a long and joyous life.
9/ Nipple fruit
The Chinese name for nipple fruit is “five generations under the same roof”, and given their voluptuous shape that resembles a breast, these inedible tropical berries bear the meaning of peace and safety for the family.
The Chinese name for lilies combines “hundred” and “together”, which is why this blossom symbolises longevity for couples or everything going according to plan.