Christmas Peace Apples (平安果)


In a land where Christmas isn't a public holiday and the cultural ties to the Western festival are virtually non-existent, a unique tradition has taken root, adding a touch of sweetness to the holiday season. While Christmas may not be deeply rooted in Chinese culture, it has been steadily gaining popularity in recent years, especially among the younger generation who perceive it as a kind of "Valentine's Day."

Beyond religious affiliations, Christmas has become a major annual event in the bustling cities of China. The celebration is marked by various promotional activities, Christmas dinners in restaurants, and an interesting tradition of gifting apples on Christmas Eve.

Yes, you read that right—apples. These aren't your ordinary apples; they're known as Christmas Eve peace apples or "ping'anguo" (平安果), which translates to 'peace apples' in Mandarin. But why apples, you may wonder?

The clever tradition is deeply rooted in homophones. In Mandarin, 'Christmas Eve' translates to "Ping'anye" (平安夜), meaning the evening of peace. Interestingly, the word for 'apple' in Chinese is "pingguo" (苹果), which sounds quite similar to "Ping'anye." Taking this linguistic playfulness a step further, Chinese people have lovingly named these special Christmas apples "ping'anguo" or 'peace apples.'

The name Christmas Eve, or "Ping'an Ye" (平安夜), translates to a peaceful or quiet evening, a term originating from the carol Silent Night. In essence, biting into one of these festive apples on Christmas Eve is believed to usher in a safe and peaceful new year.

Venturing into the markets during the holiday season, you're likely to encounter adorable boxes adorned with western-style Christmas decorations. Inside these boxes, carefully wrapped in colorful paper and embellished with cartoons, ribbons, or even printed Christmas messages, are the cherished peace apples. While they may be pricier than your average produce, these apples are more than just fruit – they are thoughtful presents exchanged on this special day.

So, if you find yourself receiving a beautifully decorated box containing a peace apple from your Chinese friends or coworkers this Christmas, remember that it's not just a piece of fruit; it's a symbol of good wishes for a safe and peaceful year ahead. Embracing the fusion of Western and Chinese traditions, the Christmas peace apple adds a delightful and meaningful touch to the holiday festivities in the heart of China.

—Qi Journal, 2023