Chinese New Year Decorations
Plants and Flowers
In Cantonese, the kumquat is called "gam gat sue." The word "gam" rhymes with the Chinese word for gold, and the word "gat" sounds like the Chinese word for good luck. Therefore, having a kumquat tree at home symbolizes both "abundance of wealth" and good luck. Kumquat trees are a very popular plant displayed for the Chinese New Year holidays, especially in South China's Cantonese-speaking regions of Hong Kong, Guangdong and Guangxi.
The peony is considered to be the "Flower of Richness and Good Luck" in China. Therefore it is a favorite New Year decoration plant.
Plants and flowers are extremely popular in Hong Kong and Macau as Chinese New Year Decorations. See Chinese New Year's Eve Flower Markets for more on this.
Chinese Red Lanterns
Chinese lanterns are used in important festivals such as the Chinese New Year and the Lantern Festival during the Mid-Autumn Festival. During the Chinese New Year, it is not uncommon to see lanterns hung on trees in the streets, office buildings and doors of houses.
Paper cutting is the art of cutting designs in paper (black, white, or colored), and then gluing them to a contrasting surface or a transparent surface. It is customary for people in northern and central China to paste red paper cuttings on doors and windows.
The image of an auspicious plant or animal provides the theme of the New Year's paper cutting. Each animal or plant represents a different wish. For example, the peach symbolizes longevity; the pomegranate, fertility; the mandarin duck, love; the pine tree, eternal youth; the peony, honor and wealth; while the magpie perched on the branch of a plum tree presages a lucky event that will soon happen.
Nianhua (年画): New Year Paintings
New Year Paintings are pasted on doors during the New Year for decorative purposes and as a way of greeting. Images on the paintings are auspicious legendary figures and plants.
The paintings are called "New Year paintings" because they are mostly posted during the New Year, and they are also a symbol of New Year's greetings.
Couplets (Duilian 对联)
New Year couplets are pasted on doors. On the couplets, good wishes or statements are expressed. New Year good wishes are usually posted in pairs (i.e. couplets), as even numbers are associated with good luck and auspiciousness in Chinese culture. Couplets are brush works of Chinese calligraphy.
The two lines of the usually-seven-character couplet are usually placed on either side of a doorway. Many are poems about the arrival of spring. Some are statements about what the residents want or believe in, such as harmony or prosperity. These might remain up until renewed at the next Chinese New Year
Upside Down 'Good Fortune' Signs
Related to the New Year statements is the posting of big diamonds (squares at 45°) of paper calligraphy with the Chinese word 福 (fu /foo/) on it turned upside down on or over doors. The symbols are deliberately inverted by the residents. Fu means 'good fortune', and posting the character upside down means they want the 'happiness' to "pour out on them". The right side of the character was originally a pictogram for a jar. So they're "pouring the contents out on" those coming through the door!
I updated this article on February 28, 2014
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Questions and Answers About Chinese New Year Decorations
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