Christmas Apples in China: What's the Deal?

December 18, 2019

If you have been grocery shopping recently, you may have noticed that the price of apples has skyrocketed. Not only has the price gone up significantly, but now there are decorative apples on the shelves: apples large as grapefruits, shiny and perfect, wrapped in plastic and bows. These are known in China as Christmas apples.

If you grew up celebrating Christmas anywhere but in China, there is probably one question on your mind at this point:

What in the world are Christmas apples?

To answer this question, we take you back to 1818 in Austria, where Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber composed the now-famous Christmas carol “Silent Night”, or *Stille Nacht*, as it is called in German.

Little did Mohr and Gruber know, years later “Silent Night” would be translated into Chinese as “平安夜 píng'ān yè” (literally, “peaceful evening”).

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If you have studied Chinese before, you know the language is big on homophones (that is, words that sound alike). We owe the existence of Christmas apples to such a homophone pairing.

The 平 píng in “平安 píng'ān” (peaceful) happens to have the same pronunciation as the character 苹 píng  in “苹果 píngguǒ” (apple). You may be able to see where this is going.

This common ground in the pronunciation of píng has led to apples gaining an association with peace, and by extension, the peaceful evening that is Christmas Eve. As a result, once Christmas time rolls around in China, you might even find apples in supermarkets and fruit shops labeled as “平安果 píng'ān guǒ” (peace fruit). If you haven’t noticed Christmas apples in previous years, take a look next time you go to the grocery store or fruit shop this year.

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Of course, you would be forgiven for thinking these fruits to be beautified versions of plain old apples, but Christmas apples are truly in a class by themselves. Christmas apples may be wrapped in beautiful paper or ornate boxes, painted or imprinted with cartoons or Christmas messages, or simply polished to a shine. You can choose from big and round, stenciled, gift baskets of apples, and more!

So if you are looking for a Christmas gift for that special someone in China this year, why not give them a Christmas apple? Christmas apples are meant to be a sign of your love and respect for your intended recipient, so be prepared to shell out some cash—some of the fancier apples and displays cost a pretty penny. In some stores in China, Christmas apples can cost up to 70RMB. That is around 10USD for a single apple, folks.

Christmas apples may make for an expensive piece of fruit, but when viewed as a Christmas gift, they are considered a thoughtful and warm-hearted present. Now that you know all about Christmas apples in China, you can now go forth and gift a beautiful Christmas apple to the apple of your eye.

Blog>Christmas Apples

Useful Chinese Christmas Phrases

shèngdàn jié

jiérì kuàilè
Happy holidays

píng'ān yè
Christmas Eve
(peaceful evening)

shèngdàn jié kuàilè
Merry Christmas

shèngdàn lǎorén