Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Chinese New Year celebrations, London, 2011

Sunday 6 February, arrived at Leicester Square tube station at 2.10 p.m. The weather was blustery, grey and mild. Gerrard Street was packed with people, of whom less than half were of Chinese origin. Two lions were seen, one in Gerrard Street, the other in Lisle Street. The offerings made to the lion in Gerrard Street usually consisted of a single red packet and a single cos lettuce (Lactuca sativa), one also had a couple of satsuma or a similar citrus (Citrus sp.) fruits attached. Some of the offerings provided for the lion in Lisle Street were more elaborate, and in two cases consisted of a length of string to which a number of red cylinders attached and a lettuce tied to the end. The troupe responsible for the Gerrard Street lion consisted of, mostly young, men of both European and Chinese origin. The Lisle Street lion, which was smaller, was composed of men of Chinese origin.
One restaurant had a vase of ‘peach’ (Prunus mume) blossom and willow (Salix sp.) twigs, another displayed small potted citrus shrubs; otherwise such things seemed to be absent.

For further information on the relevance of the plants mentioned see J. Goody, The Culture of Flowers, Cambridge, 1993, chap. 13, and R. Vickery, Garlands, Conkers & Mother-die, London, 2010: 151.

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