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Apple in China’s Christmas Eve

Christmas apple, Christmas Eve, Christmas in China

Here comes the Christmas Eve!

圣诞平安夜到了!

When Christmas was introduced to China, the Chinese fell in love and made it their own. It's widely celebrated today, especially by the young people, but hardly any of its Western connotations remain: it's more like a Valentine's Day without flowers and chocolates. Instead, we have apples and oranges!

The tradition has its roots in homophones. "Christmas Eve" is translated to 平安夜 (píng ān yè, the evening of peace) which sounds like 苹果 (píng guǒ, apple). On Christmas Eve, an apple as a gift is no longer called 苹果, but 平安果 (píng ān guǒ, the fruit of peace).

In order to show the person how lasting your love is, the apple shouldn't come easy. You can't just buy it from a corner store — you need to beg for it! (Of course, not from the corner store owner.) You have to buy the apple with 24 one jiao coins, asked for from 24 friends with 24 different last names. One jiao equals 10 cents or, in Chinese, "shí fēn (十分)" which sounds the same as "perfect." And 24 friends? One explanation is that there are 24 solar terms in the lunar calendar so it represents a whole year.

On receiving such a valuable apple, remember to give an orange in return. Orange (橙,chéng) sounds like "sincere (诚)" and "success (成)." So an orange is no longer just an orange—it's a heartfelt wish of "xīn xiǎng shì chéng" (心想事成; May all your wishes come true).

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2016-06-21

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