“So for Chinese New Year, the date changes every year because of the calendar, but some of the things we do, because the culture’s really superstitious, is we take three oranges and put them on a plate in a triangle, and then you take a third orange and put it on top of the three to make something like a pyramid. You make a few of these orange sculptures and put one in each major room of your house, like the living room, bedrooms, bathrooms, you know. So on actual Chinese New Year when my family goes out to dinner, we leave every single light on in the house because it’s supposed to let the light wash out all the spirits from last year and leave the house open to new ones and what’s ahead. I don’t remember exactly why we do the oranges, but the lights wash out the spirits, so at least I know that.”
This annual ritual is really interesting to me because I was never familiar with the customs surrounding Chinese New Year, so I found this really enlightening. It’s super fascinating to see what parts of the customs the informant knows the meaning behind and what parts have just become arbitrary to the informant. The idea of washing away the old spirits and leaving room for the new ones is something I find really interesting and poetic, and now I just wish I knew why the oranges are a part of the custom, but because the informant didn’t know, everyone the informant tells, including me, won’t know either.