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Flower Fair at Spring Festival Time
by courtesy of Qiu Huanxing and Lu Zhongmin,
the authors of Folk Customs Of China

Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province, is a beautiful old city. Legend has it that in ancient times five immortals in colourful colthes once descended on to Guangzhou on five rams. On their departure, each of them left a rice ear, expressing the wish that Guangzhou would be forever free from famine. Hence Guangzhou is also known as the City of Rams and the City of Rice Ears. A stone sculpture of five rams on Yuexiu Hill in the centre of the city had become the emblem of the city.
Walking along the streets of Guangzhou, I was immediately taken by the vegetable stalls under green and luxuriant trees selling all kinds of greens. Thinking of cold Beijing where piles of cabbages for winter were covered with thick quilts, I could not help but notice the difference.

When the Spring Festival approaches, the streets and fairs bustle with people shopping and florists from suburban areas setting up temporary shacks for the flower fair.

Guangzhou is known for its flower fair held annually during the Spring Festival. The fair in the centre of the city is one of Guangzhou's six major flower fairs. The streets are decorated with fragrant and beautiful fresh flowers, golden tangerines, and elegant miniture landscapes, looking like rivers of flowers in the distance. If we connected the flower stalls, there would be a flower street stretching for miles.

It is the Chinese radition to welcome spring with flower. North China is cold in spring, so flowers don't bloom outdoors. People there decorate their homes with miniature landscapes and potted flowers to add to the festival atmosphere. Country girls like to cut red paper into peach and plum blossoms and paste them onto doors and windows and they use red velvet flowers as ornaments on their upswept hair or at the ends of braids. With a warm and wet climate, Guangzhou has fresh flowers all year round. The origin of flower fairs can be traced back 500 years. From then on, flower fairs were held in Guangzhou during the Spring Festival every year. There is an old saying there, "No flower fairs, no Spring Festival."

It is customary to visit the flower fair on the eve of the Spring Festival and buy a potted tree with tangerines hanging on it. People also colourful flowers into vases. Immediately, the sitting room will be fragrant and pleasing on the eye. In addition, the tangerine symbolizes good luck and wealth to the local people and the chrysanthemum symbolizes longevity. On the contrary, if one comes back from the flower fair empty-handed amidst the sound of firecrackers when a year end, one will feel unhappy. All unhappiness in the following year will be attributed to not having bought flowers at the fair.

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