Apple, the fruit of peace
Giving apples as gifts on Christmas Eve (Chinese habit)
When Christmas was introduced to China, the Chinese fell in love and made it their own. It’s widely celebrated today, especially by young people. In China, Christmas eve is known as peace day. The Chinese word for apple sounds like the Chinese word for Peace. So, on Christmas eve they give the gift of peace.
The tradition has its roots in homophones. Christmas Eve translates to Ping’anye (the evening of peace) which sounds like apple, or pingguo. On Christmas Eve, an apple as a gift is no longer called pingguo, but ping’anguo (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, “shi fen” 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. The apple became the symbol of good luck and a happy future.
On receiving such a valuable apple, remember to give an orange in return. Orange (cheng) sounds like “sincere” and “success.” So an orange is no longer just an orange—it’s a heartfelt wish of “xin xiang shi cheng” (to have whatever you wish for).