Object: Tray of Togetherness


Tray of Togetherness

The above tray is a Tray of Togetherness which is used during the celebration of the Chinese New Year. This particular tray consists of nine china dishes that are hand painted with different images of Chinese women. The dishes are housed in a wooden box that is made of teak and has a hand rubbed finish. The tray has a glass lid which fits quite snugly around the base. The dishes usually have different sweets and snacks in them that are considered good luck in the new year.


Photo via: Tomruen, WikiMedia Commons

The Chinese New Year is a very important celebration in China and anywhere there is a large Chinese population. The date of the start of the new year changes because it is based on a lunisolar (based in the cycles of the moon instead of the sun) calendar. This year the new year begins on Friday, January 31. The Chinese New Year starts with the New Moon on the first day and then ends on the day of the full moon which is 15 days later. This is why traditionally the celebration would last 15 days in total.

Here is a quick video which gives a quick overview of the Chinese New Year and some of it’s history.

A Tray of Togetherness usually consists of 8 or 9 dishes which are considered lucky numbers in most Asian cultures. The number 8 is considered lucky because of its symmetry and also the sound of the word for 8 is similar in sound to the words for prosperity and wealth. The number 9 is considered extremely lucky because it is the number that is associated with the emperor and also the sound of the word for 9 is similar to the sound of the word for long-lasting. Most trays consist of either 8 or 9 dishes for these reasons.


Photo via: johannrela, WikiMedia Commons

The foods that are placed in the trays are selected based on how lucky they are considered. A food is considered lucky based on the sound of the name of the food and the sound of another word, such as prosperity, life, wealth, health, love, long-lasting, etc. Some foods that could end up being used to makeup these trays are apples, apricots, cashew nuts, melon, lychee, noodles, rice, pumpkin, pomegranates and many others. Apples are considered symbols of wisdom and peace, while melon is a symbol of close family ties. A cashew nut is symbolic of gold or wealth because the nut resembles a gold bar from ancient times. During the Chinese New Year celebration these trays are placed out for guests to eat from during their visit and so with these foods the hosts are wishing good luck in the new year.

The Chinese New Year is full of traditions and important observances that are kept so that the the coming year is full of prosperity.  If you would like to learn more about the Chinese New Year or Asian culture for that matter, please join us at the Institute of Texan Cultures on February 1st for our annual Asian Festival. [Jennifer McPhail, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources:


Tags: , , ,

5 responses to “Object: Tray of Togetherness”

  1. acid reflux during pregnancy says :

    Hello! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be okay. I’m absolutely enjoying your blog and look forward to new updates.

    • kmccloud says :

      The museum has a Twitter account: @TexanCultures and our education department has their own account: @itcedinterp

  2. back pain causes says :

    This is really interesting, You’re a very skilled blogger. I have joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your magnificent post. Also, I’ve shared your site in my social networks!

  3. melanoma says :

    Howdy great blog! Does running a blog like this take a massive amount work? I’ve absolutely no expertise in computer programming but I was hoping to start my own blog soon. Anyway, if you have any ideas or techniques for new blog owners please share. I understand this is off subject but I just wanted to ask. Appreciate it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

The TARL Blog

Experimenting with collections access since 2013

Museum Anthropology

Experimenting with collections access since 2013

Center for the Future of Museums

Experimenting with collections access since 2013


Experimenting with collections access since 2013

Smithsonian Collections Blog

Experimenting with collections access since 2013

Digital Scholarship in the Humanities

Exploring the digital humanities

ethnology @ snomnh

experimenting with social microexhibitions since 2007

%d bloggers like this: