Guangzhou has the nickname of "flower city" because of the municipality's emphasis on having gardens and greenery. The Spring Festival flower fair held every year has attracted attention from at home and abroad. During the festival, its streets are decorated with fragrant and beautiful fresh flowers and golden tangerines, and people shop for flowers and gifts at flower markets.
The origin of the flower fairs can be dated back to the ancient night flower fair. Among Cantonese people in Guangdong and Hong Kong, there is an old saying: "No flower fairs, no Spring Festival." The flower fairs usually start at least three days before the Spring Festival.
In Guangzhou, a major tradition is giving flowers, potted plants, and bouquets as gifts on Chinese New Year. A lot of significance is attached to this custom, and the various kinds of flowers given as gifts denote different wishes or signs. People want to present the freshest flowers on New Years Day to the important people in their lives. They also want to buy other gifts such as candy or special foods. So on New Year's Eve, the scramble can get intense in some places as crowds of people are out in the evening to buy flowers, plants, and other gifts.
It is customary for many families to shop for gifts after their family reunion dinner on the New Year's Eve. A favorite plant is a potted tangerine tree bearing tangerines or a tree with tangerines attached to them. The tangerine symbolizes good luck and wealth, and you are likely to see many of these in front of shops, restaurants, and hotels.
Along with the desire to present very fresh flowers, another reason for the scramble of the crowds on New Years Eve is that stores close on New Year's Day and for a while afterwards. The first three days of the Chinese New Year are legal holidays China. The weight of tradition dictates that shops and businesses close and that people focus on family matters, reunions, important relationships, and religious matters.
Some flower stalls and shops will stay open very late and even to early morning hours on New Year's Day. The municipal government policy is to have the flower markets close at 2 am on New Year's Day. So shop owners might also be frantic about selling their stock of flowers and potted plants before the markets close.
There are eight major flower markets in Guangzhou including Xihu Road and Jiaoyu Road in Yuexiu District, Liwan North Road of Liwan District, and Binjiang West Road of Haizhu District.
Xihu Road 西湖路 and Jiaoyu Road 教育路 Market: These shopping streets are near the Beijing Lu Pedestrian Street. Along with getting flowers, these streets and side alleys have a variety of products for gifts. Metro Line 1 and 2: Gong Yuan Qian Station
Liwan Road 荔湾路 Market: At this market, along with flowers, people buy calligraphy, decorations, and more expensive products such as tea and paintings. Metro Line 1: Chen Jia Ci Station
Binjiang West Road (滨江西路) Market: Along with flowers and plants, people buy festival decorations, fruit baskets, and special Chinese New Year desserts and treats. You can enjoy sampling the food. The market area is between Renmin Bridge and Jiefang Bridge (人民桥至解放桥路段). You can also see the Zhujiang River. Metro Line 6: Wen Hua Gong Yuan Station, then walk across the bridge.
The flower giving traditions are much the same in Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Macau. Some flowers and plants hold a special significance when given as gifts for Chinese New Year. Kumquat plants are a recommended gift. Kumquats are a small citrus fruit. They are like small tangerines. Kumquats are particularly popular because in Cantonese "kum" means gold. So you are wishing the recipient a financially prosperous year.
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Read more on Chinese New Year Celebrations in Hong Kong in 2015 — it is one of the top 10 festivals in the world according to Forbes.