Chinese New Year begins on 12 February 2021 – and in Hong Kong the celebration isn’t complete without the chuen hup – the ‘tray of togetherness’. This elaborate confectionery box, full of treats, is more than just a container. Each item speaks for itself: explore the good intentions within the box and beyond.
A tangerine and a lai see packet on top of the chuen hup box wishes everyone good luck and plain sailing in the year to come. The host presents the box to visitors to wish them abundance throughout the year.
Shape of the Box
The shape of the box varies: round, octagonal and plum blossom shapes are the most common.
The most classic treats are the candied items, termed the ‘eight sweets’. They are sugared lotus seeds, white gourd, lotus root, coconut strips, shredded coconut, citrus fruit, water chestnuts and carrot.
‘Coconut’ sounds like ‘grandfather and grandson’ in Cantonese, symbolising a wish for joy across the generations.
Sugared citrus fruits and carrot share the meaning of prosperity.
Roasted red and black melon seeds are essential in each box: their number symbolises a large, affluent family.
Chocolates and Golden Coins
Modern chocolates and golden coins are also common treats, and they carry the same message as their traditional forebears: the wish that everyone may eat well and live well.
This story was originally published in December 2019 and updated in January 2021