The other day I found some sweets in a pretty box lying on my desk. It turns out, one of my coworkers got married! In China, one of the customs connected to getting married it is giving sweets to your friends and coworkers. Such sweets are called xitang (喜糖 xĭtáng, meaning “joyful candy” – in this context “joyful” pertains to getting married, which in Chinese can be also called a “joyful event/matter” – 喜事 xĭshì).
The custom of giving xitang away originates from the traditional wedding ceremony, in which the sweets were given by the groom’s family to the bride’s family as one part of the bride-price. The sweets were thrown around when the bride was entering the sedan chair that was supposed to take her to the groom’s house (in the past married women were considered a part of husband’s family and moved to their house to live with them) and when the groom was entering the bridal chamber.
Traditionally given gifts included crystal sugar, melon candy, tangerine candy and longan (dragon eye) fruit – four types of sweets that symbolized that happiness would last all four seasons of the year.
Nowadays, people give all sorts of candy and chocolate as xitang. They can be ordered online in pre-made sets: