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Celebrated by more than 20% of the entire world, the Chinese New Year is one of the most important and appreciated modern-day festivals. For the uninitiated, it’s a bit of an elusive holiday — it falls on a different date every year, zodiacs are somehow involved, you wear red underwear to stave off bad luck, and it’s preceded by a week of scrupulous spring cleaning. But if there’s one thing clear, it’s the importance of decorations. We’re talking lanterns, paper crafts, paintings, inspirational quotes, and even kumquat trees. Here’s our rundown on the most iconic Chinese New Year decorations and how to deck out your house like a local.
Chinese Red Lanterns
The most prevalent decorations during the Spring Festival (as it’s called locally) are red paper lanterns. They’re found both within homes and outside hanging on street lights, trees, and office buildings. As the story goes, the horrendous monster called Nián would terrorize villages every 365 days, and the red lanterns were set out to drive him away and all the bad luck that accompanied him. The Lantern Festival at the end of the celebrations is definitely a sight to behold.
In traditional Chinese poetry, couplets are one of the most common ways in which poems are structured. The requirements of a couplet are strict — both lines must have the same number of characters, the tone pattern of one line must be the inverse of the following line, and the meanings of the two lines must be related. During the New Year, couplets are brushed on doors like traditional Chinese calligraphy. They usually speak to themes surrounding the welcoming of spring, harmony, and prosperity.
Throughout the Spring Festival, many people spend hours meticulously creating paper cuttings. Usually created from a single piece of red paper, they carve intricate images of fish, peaches, dragons, grains, phoenixes, and more. When finished, they’re usually pasted on windows. The literal translation of chuang hua is ‘window flower.’
The English name kumquat actually comes from the Cantonese pronunciation of gam kwat, which translates to ‘golden tangerine.’ Along with red, gold is one of the most important colors associated with the Chinese New Year, as it represents wealth and prosperity. People often buy a few of these auspicious plants to stash around the house and use for making delicious desserts. Speaking of desserts, China, Vietnam, and Korea are home to some of the Top 5 Cities for Asian Food.
Another very important decoration central to Chinese New Year is the paintings. Usually minimalist and done with wood-based watermark, they’re known for their bright colors and their representation of different gods. Often, they’re painted next to each other are different doors.
It’s safe to say that the Spring Festival isn’t a spring festival without fresh flowers. Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese cultures really focus on the timing as well. Flowers that bloom precisely on the day of the new year are especially lucky. The most common flowers are usually cherry, plum blossoms, pussy willows, peach blossoms, and orchids. If a flower festival tickles your fancy, be sure to consider Feria de las Flores: Medellin Festival of Flowers Event Guide.
The Year’s Zodiac Symbol
Each Chinese New Year centralizes on one of the 12 zodiac signs, and families around the world find a way to incorporate that sign into decorations in any way they can. 2018 was the year of the dog, and 2019 is the year of the pig. If you’re looking to celebrate like a local, decorate your home with some symbolic images of this year’s zodiac.
In traditional Chinese cultures, knots have a long history as an integral part of traditions. Historians have discovered that prior to written language, many cultures used different knots to convey messages. Today, lovers often give knots as a symbol of commitment and dedication. They’re also used as a part of the New Year decorations to signify good luck.
Don’t think that Chinese New Year celebrations are limited to quaint little paper-folding activities you can do with your grandma. Firecrackers are involved. Many people actually make the fireworks themselves and then set them off throughout the season.
Banners and Scrolls
If nothing else, you’re going to find some banners and scrolls positioned on the walls of many homes and businesses throughout the New Year festivities. Usually of the red and gold variety, these scrolls have characters that range from prosperity to good fortune. Follow this step-by-step guide to make your own good luck banner to hang at the entrance of your residence.