Today is the second day of the two week long Chinese New Year’s holiday. Normally, this is a time of joy, bringing family and friends together.
I’ve read that at this time–because people want to celebrate in their ancestral homes–the movement of people returning to be with their families causes the largest migration in the world. That is, several hundred million travelers are on the move. All within a couple of weeks. Amazing.
Unfortunately, this year, due to an outbreak of the deadly Coronavirus, this tradition was curtailed. The Chinese government has quarantined large areas of the country, particularly in the Wuhan region. All public transport, including airports and train stations, have been closed–essentially freezing people in place. This directly impacts tens of millions of people. Most may simply be unable to travel outside of the city where they are working in order to share the holiday with their loved ones. Others may be trapped mid-route. Many cities have cancelled their New Year celebrations.
This is a sad time for the Chinese nation. We can only hope that these drastic measures to contain the virus work, and that next year the people are able to celebrate the New Year fully.
First, in preparation for Chinese New Year and before doing any decorating, every house should be thoroughly cleaned. Besides getting the house in order for the holiday season, when sweeping and cleaning, all old things and bad luck are swept out along with the dirt. Now the house is ready for a new beginning and good luck to come in.
People also put up special decorations to celebrate the New Year. Here are some of the most common. And, as you’ll see, many of these make great projects for the family’s children so that they can participate in the New Year’s fun.
Two of these were discussed in the last blog post:
Pasting up a red square with the word fu written on it. Fu means good fortune or happiness, something every family can use! This character can be pasted on the window or door either right side up or upside down. When it’s upside down it signifies that good fortune is pouring out and into the household.
Pasting up window and door paper cuts. These are almost always in red, an auspicious color of good luck and joy. It also protects the house against evil or bad luck.
Chinese red lanterns. Not only do they brighten up the night, they drive away bad luck—especially when hung in front of the door. The lanterns can often also be seen hung on trees and outside of buildings.
Auspicious plants to have in the house.
Blooming flowers with unopened buds. Fresh flowers symbolize wishes for a prosperous New Year. The flowers can be plum blossoms, orchids, peonies, chrysanthemums, and peach blossoms. Orchids suggest fertility and abundance, and it particularly good for the household wanting to grow its family. Peonies stand for prosperity. Yellow chrysanthemums represent wealth, prosperity, and longevity.
The “lucky bamboo” (which is not actually bamboo, it’s the Dracaena sanderiana), symbolizing good luck and prosperity.
Tangerine or kumquat plant with its fruits round, gold shape. It’s thought to an auspicious plant which produces lots of fruit, therefore, it symbolizes wealth and abundance.
The jade plant because it attracts wealth and good fortune.
Do you see a theme here? Yes, indeed: good luck and prosperity. That means in health as well as economically. Happiness and joy are important, too. New Year is a time of optimism about the future. People avoid talking about anything negative or bad. This is not the time to discuss sickness and death. Positive thoughts and positive activities, such as family and friend get-togethers mark the entire 15 day celebration of the New Year.
If you would like to make some decorations for celebrating Chinese New Year there are some very good web sites with free information. A few you might try are:
January 25th 2020 is Chinese New Year day. A typical, happy greeting is: Gong Xi Fa Cai! 恭喜發財 Wishing you happiness and prosperity!
In decorating their houses at this time, people like to paste Paper Cuttings on their windows and doors. This enduring and cheerful tradition goes back at least 1500 years. The Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is one of the main times of the year when fresh paper cuttings will decorate houses.
Red paper is preferred and is the most commonly used because red symbolizes happiness but, really, any color can be used.
Since 2020 is the year of the rat, many paper cuttings will have its image either cut out in the center or drawn on the paper. If the latter, a border will be cut out around the square, forming an elaborate frame.
A couple of other very popular images on these red squares are:
the character chun春 for spring—which is a positive word because spring suggests a new beginning and growth—and
the character fu 福 for good fortune, happiness, and luck.
If chun or fu are written on the paper, they will often be pasted upside down on the window or door. Being upside down symbolizes the dumping out of the character’s goodness and blessing the house with prosperity and luck.
Gong Xi Fa Cai!
Image is a free stock photo from rgbstock.com
"Recognize yourself in he and she who are not like you and me." by Carlos Fuentes