The reason is related to wealth and overall good fortune, but you knew I was going to say that. I looked forward to the arrival of the big Mandarin orange trees in the weeks prior to Chinese New Year when we lived in Hong Kong. These gorgeous trees graced the doorways of the lobby entrance to our home at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong and pretty much every major storefront around the city. As many homes in big Asian cities in high rises, it’s not often practical to cart a Mandarin orange tree around let alone in a bustling city. Smaller kumquat trees do the trick at heights of just a few feet or less. These small trees make nice gifts and are often presented to friends and business associates during the region’s most important holiday.

Why Citrus Trees For Chinese New Year?

The words orange and tangerine sound like the words for luck and wealth in Chinese (as there are many dialects in China, this is a bit complicated so we’ll leave it at that). Not to mention the orange or golden color resembles gold or money. The trees often have hong bao or lai see packets (otherwise known as red envelopes) draped sporadically off branches. Some also say that Mandarin oranges represent the sun’s positive energy and are meant to lift spirits. The trees are usually placed in pairs, one on each side of the entry door.

Do They Grow Naturally Like That?

mandarin orange tree decoration for chinese new year

Absolutely not. The tree is groomed into shape and the fruit is tied on with wire, in some instances. They sure are pretty, though.

Where To Buy Mandarin Orange Trees Locally

In San Diego, these trees sell out at local nurseries quite quickly. Your best bet is to head to an Asian grocery such as Ranch 99 where, last year, they had small kumquat trees. I’ll be on the hunt for a small kumquat tree next week so will advise if I see any. As of last week, they weren’t quite yet available but Chinese New Year is January 31 so the fruit needs to last. So if you’d like to make extra sure that 2014 Year of the Horse is a prosperous one, find yourself a Mandarin orange or kumquat tree. Or, a bowl of pretty Mandarins will do as well.

Kung Hei Fat Choy!

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Learn why Mandarin oranges and kumquats are important to display during Chinese New Year.

Bottom photo credit: Flickr/logatfer

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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