There are a few must-haves when it comes to decorating your house for the Chinese New Year festival.
Chun Lian and upside down Fu
An item commonly used to herald in the New Year is the Chun Lian (Chinese New Year couplets) — a pair of auspicious phrases written calligraphy-style on two red vertical banners. The couplets typically bear words such as xi, shun, Chun or Cai, which mean spreading joy, paving a smooth path to success, welcoming spring, and attracting wealth respectively. These are hung up on each side of a door frame.
Often, the Chun Lian will be accompanied by the Chinese character fu (blessing), which will be pasted upside down because the Mandarin word for being upside down, dao, sounds similar to the word for “arrive”, which is a nod to the arrival of fortune to that household.
Eight Treasures Box
People visiting their friends’ and relatives’ homes are often offered sweet treats or savoury nibbles from an Eight Treasures Box, or ba bao he. Also known as a Tray of Togetherness, it is a snack platter shaped like a circle or an octagon with eight compartments filled with food items that carry their own symbolism.
Traditional food items placed inside these trays can be divided into sweet ones, such as candied winter melon and red dates, and savoury ones such as nuts and seeds. The sweet snack symbolises hope for a sweet year ahead, while the nuts and seeds denote fertility and allude to a desire for many descendants.
Such a box contains eight compartments because the pronunciation of eight in Mandarin and Cantonese sounds like the word for prosperity. Many people are now giving the snack tray an update by filling it with treats such as chocolate coins, nougat and less common nuts such as macadamia nuts or cashew nuts roasted in sea salt.
Oranges and tangerines
Mandarin oranges are another Chinese New Year staple not only because their sweetness points to a sweet year ahead, but also because of their auspicious name. In Cantonese, Mandarin oranges are known as Kam, which also means gold in the same dialect, while in Mandarin, they are called Ju Zi, which sounds like Ji (luck).
Their cheery colour is also a hue close to gold. In addition, Mandarin oranges with their leaves intact point to longevity. The citrus fruits are therefore placed in bowls around the house during Chinese New Year. But they are never placed in fours because four in Mandarin is si, which sounds like death.
When visiting family and friends during Chinese New Year, Mandarin oranges are exchanged in pairs with the host to symbolise the spreading of good luck.
Fresh Window Dressings
Cleaning or replacing old Window Dressings is necessary before Chinese New Year, Clean and neat curtains are important to make your guests feel comfortable, especially when they come to your home. They will be able to enjoy a great environment inside your home during Chinese New Year. Fresh Window dressings also help to improve the overall appearance and overall design of home significantly.
A Chinese New Year without pineapple tarts would be unthinkable, but these yummy treats have a deeper meaning besides just being tasty nibbles. The significance of the tarts stem from the fact that pineapples are deemed lucky objects, because in Hokkien, pineapples are known as ong lai, which sounds like “prosperity has come”.
Therefore, eating pineapples, and even displaying them around the house, represents good luck and wealth. The actual fruit — adorned with red ribbons — is also commonly used as an ornament, as are pineapple-shaped lanterns.