It’s always interesting to discover what different cultures believe to be lucky or unlucky. For example, why are tangerines lucky in some parts of the world? What do they represent? Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why these luscious fruits are so adored.
So, Why Are Tangerines Lucky?
Tangerines are considered lucky throughout Asia for a few different reasons:
1. They’re Abundant When Other Fruits are Scarce
These fruits come into full ripeness in wintertime, when most other fruits have already disappeared. All those glorious summer-sweet peaches and cherries are long gone when these golden globes appear. As such, they offer sweetness and much-needed vitamin C when people need them most: during long, dark winter days when other foods are harder to come by.
2. Their Name Sounds Auspicious
Apparently the word for tangerine in Mandarin Chinese sounds very similar to the word for luck. As a result, they draw a direct parallel between that word and the fruit itself. In fact, many cultures around the world use homonyms as symbols of good or bad luck. For example, the number four is considered unlucky in China because the word for it sounds very similar to the word for death when spoken aloud.
3. They Look Like Balls of Gold
Tangerines represent wealth because they look like bright balls of gold. Since Chinese New Year represents a fresh start for prosperity and wealth, tangerines are offered to people in the hope that they will help to bring good fortune to the recipient.
Many children wake up on Chinese New Year’s Day to find tangerines and oranges beside their pillows, along with red envelopes filled with money.
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What Else Can Tangerines Symbolize?
In China, tangerines can also symbolize fertility—but only if the stem and a couple of leaves are still attached to the ripe fruit. This goes along with the idea of representing wealth and good fortune, as being blessed with a child is considered great fortune indeed.
Western culture has adopted this kind of symbolism, which is why tangerines usually make an appearance in Christmas stockings.
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Which Other Fruits Represent Luck and Prosperity?
Various foods represent different things in world cultures. In fact, what is considered lucky in one country may be cursed in another.
In Feng Shui, lemons are used to neutralize and clear away negative energy. Lemons are also used in Wicca to clear negative energy from a space. Early Christians viewed lemon trees as symbols of hope, and these fruits still represent fidelity and prosperity to many Catholics.
Since lemons were considered rare treasures in Medieval and Tudor Europe, you’ll often see them in paintings. They’re usually tucked into large bowls full of fruit to represent wealth. Only rich people had the ability to purchase expensive, imported produce. We take lemons for granted now as they’re available at supermarkets year-round. Our ancestors were not so lucky, and before the 18th-century middle and lower-class Europeans and North Americans might have never tasted a lemon during their lifetime.
Further Reading: Complete Citrus Fruit List
In India, mangoes represent prosperity and fertility. They’re golden and juicy when ripe, and have huge seeds inside them that can represent successful pregnancies.
Mango trees are associated with Manmatha—the Hindu god of love. These trees are also sacred in Indian Buddhism, as it’s believed that Buddha was given mango trees to meditate beneath. After Alexander the Great visited India, he discovered that he loved mangoes so much that he took the seeds back to Greece in order to try cultivating the fruit there
In fact, mangoes are considered so lucky in India that they have become the country’s national fruit!
In many parts of the Middle East and Southeastern Europe, pomegranates represent prosperity and fertility. This is because they’re pretty much bursting with seeds, and seeds are the cornerstones for new life.
Greek people still smash open pomegranates on New Year’s Day to represent a period of rebirth and fecundity.
Much like pomegranates, these seedy fruits are often associated with wealth, luck, and prosperity. In the Old Testament, a healthy fig tree directly represented the health and wellbeing of the Jewish people. These fruits are considered sweet blessings, as their creamy sweetness is a blessing to the palate as well as nourishing the body.
When a stretch of land was described as “overflowing with abundant provision” in Deuteronomy 8, two of the primary foods listed as part of that abundance were figs and pomegranates.
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Iðunn, the Norse goddess of youth, guards the golden apples that her fellow gods eat in order to remain young. Apples are symbols of prosperity and fertility all over Europe. In fact, many stories describe apples as being used to bring fertility and luck to their recipients.
For example, a great king prayed to the god Odin for a child, and Odin’s wife Frigg—goddess of marriage and motherhood—sent him an apple to share with his wife. As a result, the queen conceived a son who grew up to be a hero named Völsung.
So, the next time you overhear someone asking “why are tangerines lucky?”, you’ll have some great explanations to share with them. Make sure to always carry one of these fruits with you so you can eat one dramatically as you’re telling your tale.
If those listening are very lucky, you might even share a bit with them too.