Red Lanterns to Cherry Blossoms, what are the meanings behind CNY decorations

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On all streets and lanes
Everyone is greeting
When we meet and say Hello
They all greet to Gong Xi
Gong Xi Gong Xi Gong Xi ni ya
Gong Xi Gong Xi Gong Xi ni!

It is that time, where everyone sings along to ‘Gong Xi Gong Xi Gong Xi ni ya’, welcoming the Chinese New Year with joyous celebration. It is also during this time, we will see red and gold galore of decorations at houses and on the streets. Usually, people will begin to decorate their homes around 10 days before the Chinese New Year... and actually, almost all decorations involved have their own meaning and wishes. While the number eight (8) is commonly known to be a symbol of fortune and wealth, let’s find out what are the meanings of popular decorations in the Chinese culture during Chinese New Year.

Red Lanterns

Chinese New Year Red Lanterns

Red lanterns are often used in Chinese festivals including Chinese New Year. It is not uncommon to see red lanterns hung on trees, shops, and house porches. Hanging a red lantern in front of the door is believed to drive off bad luck. When bad luck is shooshed away, good fortune is welcomed to prosper into the new year. 

Have you notice, often the red lanterns come in the shape of a pineapple. The relevance? In Hokkien and Cantonese, pineapple is called ‘ong lai’, which literally means ‘fortune come’. Pineapple or ong lai, is seen as a symbol of wealth and prosperity, to welcome riches into the home.

Best Wishes Couplets

The Chinese couplet refers to two poetic lines, often written in Chinese calligraphy on red paper with a black ink brush. During Chinese New Year, good wishes are written on the couplets - usually posted in pairs, as even numbers are associated with good luck and auspiciousness in the Chinese culture. 

Similar to couplets, diamond shape paper calligraphy is used as decoration as well. Fun fact, the Chinese character fú (good fortune) is purposely written upside down and placed on or over door entrances. Why upside down? It symbolises that luck is being poured out onto the individual coming through the door!

Kumquat Trees, Cherry & Plum Blossoms

Kumquat Trees in Cantonese are transcribed as gam gat shu; gam means gold and gat translates to good luck. Likewise in Mandarin, the kumquat is called jinju shu; jin means gold, the word ju sounds like jee, translates to 'good luck'. Therefore, the kumquat trees, are often brought during the New Year and placed in many homes to welcome wealth, luck and prosperity into the family.

Chinese New Year marks the beginning of spring. So it is not uncommon that blooming flowers are decorated in welcoming spring and wishes for a prosperous new year. Popular decorations such as cherry and plum blossoms branches and orchids symbolise longevity and the renewal of life. These flowers are first to bloom after winter which why they are incredibly significant new beginnings in the Chinese culture.  

Paper Cuttings

Typically red, paper cutting is crafted from cuttings into images of an auspicious plant or animal, and then pasting to light-coloured walls or glass windows. The animal or plant represents significant wishes. For example:-

  • Peach - longevity
  • Pomegranate - fertility, suitable for newlyweds! 
  • Duck - love
  • Pine tree - Eternal youth
  • Peony - Honor, wealth
  • Magpie on a plum tree branch - the lucky event will happen soon

 

Firecrackers

Firecrackers in living room Chinese new year decoration

Chinese firecrackers are (some real, some solely decorative), would be easy to spot at many houses and business establishments this Chinese New Year. The red and gold firecrackers represent happy festivities as they are loud, starting the new year with a bang!  Traditionally, the cracking sounds and noises of the firecrackers are lit in front of family homes and stores to shoo ghosts and evil spirits away.

Have you started decorating for CNY?

Check out these places to get the red and gold decorations this Chinese New Year:

Extra: Avoid these decoration mistakes

Let’s start with the obvious - no blacks and no unlucky words or numbers. If you are thinking of getting new decorations for your home do not get clocks - as they represent bad luck. Plus, clocks and watches symbolise running out of time. Other than that, Mirrors are a bad idea for decorations, as they are believed to attract malicious ghosts. The fact is that they are easily broken, and breaking things is a bad omen.

So there you have it! Now you are somehow got an idea on how to decorate your house this Chinese New Year. Get creative, maybe you might create one of a kind paper cutting to display to the entire family? For more ideas, perhaps scout cari@unifi sellers in your area for something red, something gold to decorate your homes? We wish you a very, very, auspicious and prosperous new year, Gong Xi Fa Cai! Xi Nin Kuai Le!




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