A Guide to Chinese New Year Decorations
Chinese New Year is a 15-day holiday that marks the new lunar year and the welcoming of spring. It is one of the most festive celebrations in Chinese culture, and different ways of celebrating the new year exist in different regions of China.
Chinese New Year Decorations
As with any holiday, decorations are a must. New decorations are put up each year; some even remain up throughout the year to welcome luck, health, and prosperity in the New Year. Various decorations are used during Chinese New Year celebrations, and many of them have particular meanings. Here's a list of a few Chinese New Year decorations and what they mean.
Chūnlián (春聯) are simply long, narrow red strips of paper or diamond-shaped paper printed with black or gold Chinese characters. They are hung in the doorways of homes in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
The papers are red because the Chinese word for red (紅, hóng) sounds like the word for “prosperous.” Red symbolizes joy, virtue, truth and sincerity.
The color red is often used in Chinese opera for characters who are sacred or loyal. Gold is used because the color is symbolic of wealth.
The poetic couplets that are written on the paper feature calligraphy done in fragrant India ink. One to four characters about themes of springtime are written on the chunlian.
The tradition of placing spring couplets on the home originated during the Five Dynasties Period in which Meng Chang inscribed characters on a peach slat. This evolved into the tradition of pasting door gods on peach wood charms, then finally red paper decorations with auspicious calligraphy.
Just before Chinese New Year begins, families give their homes a thorough spring cleaning. Old chunlian are taken down and discarded. Once the entire house is cleaned, new chunlian are put up around the house, particularly along the top and sides of the front door. Smaller diamond-shaped chunlian are oftentimes put on bedroom doors or mirrors in the home.
Chunlian feature one or more lucky Chinese characters or sayings. The most common are:
富 (fù): Fortune
春 (chūn): Spring
雙喜 (shuāngxǐ): Double Happiness
More Lucky Characters
Fu and chun are often hung upside down because the Chinese word 倒 (dào, upside down) sounds the same as 到 (dào, arrive). Therefore, it symbolizes the arrival of fortune and spring.
A picture of the Kitchen God is another Chinese New Year decoration that is hung in the kitchen. The Kitchen God is said to give a report on each household's activities to the heavens at the end of the lunar year.
Once his mission is complete, the old image of the Kitchen God is either burned or thrown out and a new picture of the Kitchen God is then hung on Chinese New Year.
Woodblock prints are another form of Chinese New Year decoration. Traditional woodblock prints first featured door gods, which are pasted on gates at Chinese New Year to protect the home.
There are two kinds of door gods. The first type is marital door gods who are generals in full battle armor. These gods include Shen Tu, Yu Lei, Chin Chiung, Wei Chi-Kung, Wei To, and Chia Lan.
The second type is literary door gods. These are depictions of scholars and officials and are hung in courtyards or inside room doors. Popular characters include San-Hsing, Wu Tze Teng Ke, and Chuang Kuan Chin Li.
Today wood block prints also feature lucky themes taken from stories, drama, and folk customs that are used to usher in luck and wealth.
Paper cuttings are intricately cut red paper designs of zodiac animals and lucky Chinese characters. They are set against a white background and prominently placed on walls throughout the home to usher in luck and prosperity in the New Year.