Gong xi, gong xi! Have you ever wondered why mandarin oranges are so important during the Chinese New Year? First, let me explain that the Chinese pronunciation of mandarin orange sounds like gold and wealth in abundance. Since Chinese people love to say or listen to good words, they believe the auspicious items will bring them luck and fortune for the whole year. Hence mandarin oranges played a major part during this festive season. We will have mandarin orange ornaments hanging on the ceiling, ang pow displays (I will be showing you how to do it below), tangerine or kumquat tree plants and many more items throughout the whole house.
Did you know that tangerine or kumquat trees symbolize a wish for both wealth and good luck? They are tiny little orange-coloured fruits that hang on the small tree. They can be quite costly as they take a long time to grow. They can be as tall as a metre. People tend to display one on each side outside the house to ensure you bring in good fortune when you are stepping into your home or workplace.
My mum loves having tangerine trees at home and also outside the house. She used to go to the florist as soon as they are in stock. I have caught her counting the number of tangerines before she purchases it as she wants the tree to bear a good number of tangerines before she buys it. They’re a bit too heavy for her to bring home nowadays so she tends not to buy them anymore.
As for myself, I have been in the UK for 20 years and I don’t really see them selling them here, except in mega Asian supermarkets. Some places do sell them as a plastic tree so that they could be reused in future like with a plastic Christmas tree. My uncle has plenty of fake tangerine trees in his house and he also decorated them with lights and fake gold coins. Some people will decorate their trees by hanging a lot of ang pow containing a token one cent coin.
We Chinese also believe that odd numbers bring bad luck and should be avoided. This is why we always exchange two mandarin oranges with both hands as even numbers are thought to bring in good luck. It is the same with the ang pow money. It should be an even monetary amount.
Mandarin orange with stem and leaves symbolises abundant luck in fertility. If you know any newlywed couples, you must remember to bring them mandarin oranges with their leaf or leaves on them when visiting during the first fifteen days of Chinese New Year!
I think I have explained enough about mandarin oranges, let’s check out how to make them using ang pows.
As always, choose your ang pow wisely! The design of the ang pow and thickness will affect the whole outcome. I wouldn’t recommend mixing different designs together as it won’t look as nice. These orange ang pows that I bought from an Asian shop look fantastic, but the material is not consistent. Some of the ang pows are far too thick, some are thin, and the colour of the Chinese character prints are in different shades. Luckily, I managed to gather just enough ang pows for this craft.
This craft will definitely work well with yellow or orange ang pows. You do not need a design on the back of the ang pow. As for thickness, try to get medium thickness for flexibility.
This mandarin orange ang pow display measures approximately 20 cm by 20 cm by 24 cm. If you wish to hang it, you can add a Chinese knot tassel at the bottom and a red string on top. The rating of difficulty is 2.5 out of 5, which should take roughly 1 hour to complete.
To make this, you will require:
- 13 long rectangle ang pows / red envelopes (approx. 9.5 cm by 17 cm)
- 1 A4 green paper, cut into leaf shapes
- Stapler & staples
- BBQ stick/pen
- Optional: clear glue
Find the midpoint of the ang pow by folding the ang pow into half vertically but don’t press the fold all the way down. Instead, just press the two corners of the joint down. This is a marker for later use.
Next, open the ang pow out again. Then fold the ang pow into half horizontally and again only press the two corners of the joint down. Repeat for the rest of the ang pows. These are markers for later use.
Now to fold each side of the 12 ang pows – from the midpoint that we found on the ang pow make a fold from the top midpoint to the left midpoint, the left midpoint to the bottom midpoint, the bottom midpoint to the right midpoint and from the right midpoint to the top midpoint. The end result should be four diagonal folds (diamond shape). I use a ruler to help me to fold the corners neatly. Make sure that you fold the back of the ang pow onward to the front of the ang pow.
You will need 6 ang pows to make the top part of the orange and staple them along the folds on the top as shown. As the ang pows I used are slightly too big, I staple them at three locations near the fold, but I didn’t staple them close to the top. The reason is if I staple it too close to the top, later, I won’t be able to insert the stem into the top. Hence my first staple is 1.5 cm to 2 cm away from the top of the ang pow.
For the bottom part of the orange, you will need to staple the bottom part of the six ang pows. Make sure the image is flush with the top.
Join the bottom ang pows to the top ang pows by stapling them all. When stapling the ang pows, use your fingers to smooth the inside of the ang pows and push the ang pow outward. Before you seal the last ang pows, place your hand/fingers inside the display to check all the ang pows are folded and crease-free.
Now you will have a mandarin orange with sharp corners poking out. To make it smooth, take both corners of the same ang pow and staple it together. Bring those corners as close to each other as possible, it will make the mandarin orange shape look rounder. Also, the base will be flat too.
Using the BBQ stick, roll the ang pow as tightly as possible.
For the leaves, use small pieces of green paper, fold them and cut them into leaf shapes in different shapes and lengths as shown. Staple the leaves on one side of the ang pow. Roll the ang pow tightly and insert the BBQ stick at the top of the mandarin orange. Move the BBQ stick around to make the gap bigger.
Insert the stem with leaves into the gap. I don’t like to use glue as it might drop off after some time. But if you prefer, you can cut your stem ang pow in half, glue the ang pow together and let it dry before glueing onto the top part of the mandarin orange.
As I mentioned above, we love even numbers, hence I have made two mandarin orange ang pow displays! What do you think about this display? Let me know in the comments below.
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