I hope you all had a positive week!
We are going to wind down this week with a bit of celebration and preparation for Chinese New Year which falls on the 12th February. This is my favourite holiday but with the pandemic it means that I will not be able to celebrate with family as I usually do. However, this does not stop me from enjoying this year’s festival at home! This post is going to give you 8 ways to decorate your home for Chinese New Year – Come and celebrate the Year of the Ox with me!
1. Red, Red and More Red
Decorating your home with items of red soft furnishings is an easy way to celebrate Chinese New Year. As many of you know – red is the colour of Chinese New Year because it symbolises good luck and good fortune. Therefore, why not add a pop of colour to your home with red cushions for the living room or a red tablecloth for the dining table? Another simple way I decorate the home is to tie red or gold ribbons on vases.
2. Oranges and Clementines
I am all for easy wins for good luck and prosperity in the home. If you were in Asia, during the Lunar New Year, you may purchase a kumquat tree which symbolise both wealth and good luck. Living in London, this is not a plant that I can readily find (do tell me if you know where I can source one) so often we would make do with oranges and clementines preferably with the little leaf on it, so head on over to your local market!
Oranges look like the sun and is considered a highly auspicious symbol of abundance and happiness. Simply put the oranges at the centre of the table; though please ensure that there are eight pieces of fruit on the plate. Eight is considered the luckiest number in the Chinese culture as eight sounds like wealth/fortune! Other fruits to consider are pomelos that bring good luck and family unity. This is one of my favourite fruit and I am going to have to try and see whether I can find some in an Asian supermarket. Grapes, plums and jujube can also be eaten as this group of fruits are a symbol of good luck and prosperity.
3. Tray of Togetherness
Food is always the centre of every holiday and festivity. This year I found these contemporary and cute table centre pieces which I have placed inside the vases with my flowers. For the centre piece of the table, we usually have a Chinese Snack Box also known as The Tray of Togetherness. This is really special and I am gutted that I did not manage to purchase one: 1) I have not been able to travel to Asia or go to Chinatown due to the lockdown and 2) I was too disorganised to order one from Amazon in time for the 12th due to the long lead times.
The Tray of Togetherness s usually made of six to eight compartments, the number six symbolising luck and eight symbolising fortune. Traditionally, it is filled with melon seeds and candied fruits, but overtime in my family, we filled it with sweets and candies that people would actually eat such as White Rabbit Sweets which are a CLASSIC or Ferrero Rocher because it is wrapped in gold or Lindt Lindor because they are wrapped in red! If you want to learn more, there is a great post which gives ideas of what other items to fill in your box with.
The Tray of Togetherness has a special place in my heart because you offer the tray to all visitors to your home during the festive period. For my family, I would make sure that anyone who is elder than me will be presented with the tray the moment they walk through the door (you have to be respectful!) and wish them a great and abundant year. They are obliged to take a sweet from the tray and in return they will wish me a good year and would give me a red pocket with cash inside it! Let’s be honest, that is a sweet deal!
Given that I am not allowed to have visitors this year and my poor planning, I will still have a small Tray of Togetherness but will use a small golden dish filled with goodies instead, so at least I can pick something to nibble on when I feel peckish!
Who doesn’t love flowers? After a very dreary January, I would recommend anyone to have some flowers to brighten up the home. In Hong Kong, they have a huge flower market every year stocked with an abundance of beautiful flowers – It is mayhem but great fun! Orchids are a popular because they are delicate and beautiful and have been considered to be symbolic of fertility and abundance. Chrysanthemums are a symbol of good luck; lily flower symbolises harmonious union, domestic peace and wonderful life, while daffodils predict happiness and luck. Peach blossoms are also very popular but again, no idea where I am supposed to find that near my home, though luckily I do have an artificial cherry blossom tree at home, which I have decorated with Chinese knots (see below).
One of my favourites are Narcissus/Water Fairy Flowers which I have not managed to find in the UK but they represent good fortune and prosperity. They smell soooooo lovely and they grow in a shallow dish of water and pebbles. My mother’s favourite is Pussy Willows and this flower is a sign of growth and represents the coming of prosperity (explains a lot why mum loves them!).
5. Lanterns and Chinese Knots
Lanterns are also synonymous to Chinese New Year and are often hung in front of buildings. The idea of lanterns, apart from being a light source, was to scare aware the Nian monster (year) and bring good luck to the household. Chinese knots is also seen everywhere for Chinese New Year and is deeply rooted in Buddhist and Taoist tradition. Chinese knots symbolises good luck and prosperity, not only are they beautiful, but hanging these on the door or entrance is said to improve the festive atmosphere!
6. Paper Cuttings and Couplets
Before Chinese New Year, it is necessary to complete a big spring clean of your home. The idea is to welcome the year with a “fresh” start. Windows would be expected to be cleaned and decorated with paper cuttings with auspicious meanings. I am not talented enough to make my own paper cuttings but there are plenty of options online. Spring couplets are also essential for Chinese New Year; these are long red pieces of paper with festive blessings on them. Previously this was something that my mum would buy for me and my sister because you would select a different wish/blessing unique to the individual’s circumstances. I still remember how my sister would always get the “be successful at school” couplet as my mum hoped she would bring a good report card home! The one I have received the most is “every step you take is a higher one”, i.e. promotions at work haha! I managed to find this set with everything online if you are thinking of going all out this Chinese New Year!
7. Upside down Fu Character
The Fu Character (or “Fook” in Cantonese) means wealth and you would often see it on the front door of Asian homes during the Lunar New Year. It is made from a red diamond shaped paper with gold or black Fu character the middle. I never understood why it was placed upside down though, but with a little research, the tradition, turns out started from a mistake! Regardless of its origins, the word invert (倒) can be translated to “to pour out”, meaning the upside Fu symbol is interpreted as “having fortune poured out onto your home”. Whatever, the reason, I would want all of you to have fortune poured on to your home, therefore, I would recommend this Fu character for your front door.
8. Paper Dragons
I am not 100% sure whether this is a Chinese New Year tradition but I always remember loving the paper dragons that my parents bought me when in Chinatown for the celebrations! I have included them on the list because they are fun and colourful! Dragons are seen as lucky and good unlike in Western cultures. They also symbolise wisdom, power and wealth, so no wonder why the dragon dance is performed in many celebrations, and especially during the Chinese New Year. Given I can’t see the dance myself this year that doesn’t mean I can’t have a little dragon dance in my own home!
So that is it! 8 ways to decorate your home for Chinese/Lunar New Year.
Which decoration would you put in your home? Leave me a comment below and send me pictures of your decorations!
With Sweet and Sour Love,
Pineapple Chicken x