Chinese Spring Festival Decorations
In China, the Spring Festival is synonymous with having a makeover. Every year, Chinese cities dress up in red, with jaw-dropping decorations to celebrate the occasion.
Houses and streets are fully decorated with red Spring Festival couplets, red lanterns, and red paper cuttings.
People dress up in red, as the colour is a symbol of happiness, wealth, and prosperity, according to Chinese culture. At the same time, it’s also believed to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck. All the good things you can wish for.
But what is the meaning of the different decorations spread across Chinese cities? Here’s the lowdown.
1.Spring Festival Couplets
Couplets, also known as door couplets, are brush works of Chinese calligraphy, in black ink on red paper, which are used to express best wishes for the year ahead. During the Chinese Spring Festival, all families decorate their houses with couplets to welcome the arrival of the New Year.
These red and gold banners spread messages of prosperity, good fortune, good health, and good luck. They are pasted alongside the doors of nearly every household during the New Year’s season. A four-character idiom of good wishes is often added to the crosspiece of the door frame as well.
According to 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 opposite of the following line, and the meanings of the two lines must be related. There are countless versions and styles, but every single couplet conveys the writer’s wishes for the new year.
So, it’s also very interesting to check the couplets of different families. Sometimes they reflect their ideas about happiness. Other, they disclose something else.
This tradition originated from the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279) but became popular during the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644). That is still the case up until today, attracting the attention of people from all over the world.
2.Chinese Red Lanterns
The most common decorations during the Spring Festival, the name give the Chinese New Year celebrations, are red paper lanterns. They can be found both within homes and outside, hanging on street lights, trees as well as office buildings.
As a traditional folk handicraft, the Chinese red lantern is one of the symbols of Chinese culture you might have already spotted. It is also an unmissable decoration at various festivals, whether it’s the Chinese New Year, the Lantern Festival, or the Mid-Autumn Festival.
In China, you can find all styles of lanterns, from basic shapes like spheres to lotuses and even dragons. Some people write the word fu (福 / Fú), meaning happiness and good fortune, poetry or other calligraphy on the lanterns, adding a special message.
These lanterns are hung to symbolise happiness and are believed to drive out any bad luck. For locals, they are a sign of family reunion, prosperity, happiness, and vitality, filling with hope the New Year which is due to start.
Besides the red lanterns, Chinese people also decorate their houses by hanging up certain words like Fu (福 / Fú), which means, happiness and good fortune. It is exquisitely written with calligraphy onto a square piece of red paper and can then be pasted onto walls, doors, or windows, adding a special touch.
Fu (福 / Fú) is often incorporated into other decorations, such as paper cuttings and paintings. Playing with words, many Chinese like to put Fu (福 / Fú) upside down. The word for ‘upside-down’ (倒 / Dào) is a homophone of ‘here’ (到). This pun means that good fortune is coming through the door. So, let it be open to it.
The Chinese knot is also known as "woven knot" with each knot woven with one single red rope. Chinese knots are a handicraft with a long history and a must for the Spring Festival’s decorations. In the old days, these knots were used for simple mark, but with time they became accessories and decorations. Nowadays, they are mostly used as interior decorations and offered to friends or relatives as a gift.
The Chinese knots are generally created from a single rope and several single knots can be grouped into a complicated one. A variety of shapes of knots have different meanings and their names are always related to ‘safety’ and “good luck”. For that reason, people love to use it to decorate rooms during the Chinese New Year, not only because of its inner meaning but also because of its unique design.
5.Paper Cutting Arts
Paper cutting is a folk art in China, consisting of cutting red paper, or of other colours, with scissors or a knife. The results of these magical works can be seen literally in every season, but have a special meaning during the Spring Festival.
Usually displayed on windows, they’re also known as ‘window flowers.’ They are made possible thanks to the skills of several craftsmen, who painstakingly create these beautiful works for hours and then paste them on, using sticky rice glue.
Images include fish, peaches, grains, dragons and phoenixes, among others. They all carry out a special meaning and purpose. In China, fishes, for example, are a symbol of blessings. Dragons and peaches, however, are synonyms with folktales and legends. Grains and related images, on the other hand, represent hopes for a good harvest during the year to come.
During the Chinese Spring Festival, coloured lights are usually hung on the streets or in shopping malls to create an atmosphere.
But with time, people have started to use them as New Year decorations as well, as they have a pretty charming effect.
On New Year’s Eve, families turn on the lights and enjoy a warm dinner together, creating one of the most memorable moments of the year.
As the Chinese New Year’s celebrations, commonly known as Spring Festival, mark the arrival of Spring it is normal to decorate houses with blooming flowers, which symbolise the new season and wishes for a prosperous new year, whilst spreading a unique aroma.
The most popular blooming plants traditionally used during this period are branches of plum blossoms, butterfly orchids, daffodils and peach blossoms.
8.Lucky Bamboo and Kumquat Tree
Green plants are one of the must-buy home decorations for Chinese New Year nowadays and some popular plants have been given nicknames such as the ‘Lucky Bamboos’ and ‘Kumquat Tree.’
Just as the names imply, these plants are all synonymous with wealth and good fortune. They are especially popular in the southern areas of China.