Putting together a Tray of Togetherness (Chinese New Year Candy Box) with dehydrated fruits, melon seeds, and nuts which hold symbolic meanings.
The Tray of Togetherness (Chinese New Year Candy Box) is a pretty container with 6 to 8 compartments filled with candy, seeds, and nuts. The food items in each compartment are carefully selected to symbolize a desirable attribute for the coming year. These foods are chosen because they are homonyms or they sound like an auspicious word.
My Special Tray of Togetherness
When I visited my parents in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at the end of April 2019, they gave me this beautiful Chinese wedding basket which they have had in their possession for a while. At first, I wasn’t sure if I could bring it home but after much arranging, I managed to fit it snuggly into my luggage. I padded it on all sides with my clothes so that it will not be damaged. I am very happy to say that it survived the trip beautifully!
It sits on our hearth throughout the year. You will likely see it every now and then in my pictures. For this season, I am combining it with my Gifts of 6 Happiness Tupperware container I purchased many years ago in Malaysia to make this unique Tray of Togetherness. I absolutely love it because the long handle makes this Candy Box very easy to carry around.
Homemade Dried Fruits for My Tray of Togetherness
Instead of buying dried fruits from the store, I decided to make my own this year. I wanted to try out the dehydrate setting in my oven and so I dried a bunch of fruits and also this Dried Rose Agar-agar. The drying process took a total of 9 hours and so I put in as many trays of fruits as possible. There were 6 trays in all and you can see how I arrange them in the oven and the Dried Fruits that came out of it. Some of the fruits I chose were specifically for the purpose of arranging this Candy Box.
Apples Symbolizing Peace and Harmony
Ping Quo (苹果) means apple. The word Ping (苹) rhymes with the word peace (平) and Quo (果) means fruit. Hence, a peaceful and harmonious fruit. That is just beautiful! We can all do with more peace in this world.
Pineapple Symbolizing Good Luck and Prosperity
Wong Lai (黄梨) in Cantonese means pineapple. The word Wong (黄) which means yellow is a homonym for good luck or prosperity (旺). Hence, it is a desirable item in the Candy Box.
Melon Seeds Symbolizing Fertility and Many Offspring
Kua Chee (瓜子) means melon seeds. The word Chee (子) is a homonym for child or offspring and so melon seeds symbolize fertility and many offspring.
It is the best if you can find red melon seeds. They are not the easiest to crack between your teeth as they can be slippery but the old folks love and crack them with ease. I am very out of practice and had a hard time cracking even one…haha! I found these red melon seeds at an Asian grocery store near Denver and promptly replaced the roasted and salted pumpkin seeds with them.
Candied Winter Melon and Ginger Symbolizing Growth and Good Health
Thong Tung Kwa is candied winter melon and it rhymes with strength and growth. Keong Thong is candied ginger and this rhymes with vigor and good health.
Pistachios Symbolizing Happiness
Hoi Sum Quo literally means happy nuts. 🙂 I guess pistachios are called happy nuts because they look like they are cracking open a smile. Whatever the case may be, we all need more joy and happiness in the New Year.
Oranges Symbolizing Wealth and Prosperity
It is not easy to find Kum (Mandarin oranges) here and so clementines will have to do. Kum in Cantonese is a homonym for gold (金) which symbolizes wealth and prosperity. That is pretty obvious. When you visit your Chinese friends during the Chinese New Year, be sure to bring an even number of Mandarin oranges. Six or eight are best because six symbolizes luck and eight symbolizes fortune.
Peanuts Symbolizing Good Health and Longevity
Fa Sang (花生) is peanuts which symbolizes good health and longevity because the word Sang (生) means life. Everyone needs good health for the New Year because health is wealth.
I like to place those little white description tags in my Chinese New Year Candy Box so that my American friends can understand the significance of each treat offered to them. It is also a good way to showcase our food culture. 🙂
If you would like to put together your own Tray of Togetherness, please check out the links below to find a suitable container. I hope I have given you some ideas on how to go about it.