Discover the meaning behind CNY decorations

By Tharmini Kenas tharmini@thestar.com.my

The best way to welcome a celebration and spread the festive joy is by decorating your home. Chinese New Year is almost here, and it is not too late to start filling your home with all things red and gold to usher in prosperity and good luck. While most of us are no strangers to CNY decorations, it is worth refreshing our memories on why certain decorations have long become a “CNY classic”.

THE RED LANTERNS

Get a few or a lot of red lanterns, depending on how much you want to boost your festive spirit. It is believed that the red Chinese lantern can drive off bad luck. So, make sure that you hang a few lanterns at the entrance to your home.

Nearing Chinese New Year, it is very common to see lanterns being hung in shopping malls, neighbourhoods, office buildings and streets. These lanterns are welcomed by all Malaysians, since they give off a sense of warmth and is a pleasure to the eyes.

ORNAMENTS & SYMBOLS

There are a few ornaments that are closely associated with Chinese New Year and used in the past to decorate the house during the festival. It is time to bring these ornaments and symbols out and rejoice in the festive spirit.

First, the Chinese gold ingots which are also known as yuanbao or sycee. These are shiny boatshaped gold ingots which represent wealth and prosperity – since they were made of gold in Ancient China. Second, the Chinese knots that are known as good-luck charms. These charms are intricately designed and knotted to give the look of endless knots. Hence, they symbolise longevity and are believed to protect people from evil spirits.

Last but not least, the ancient Chinese coins which symbolises wealth and prosperity. These coins have square holes in the middle. These three ornaments are shiny, creative and meaningful, making them the perfect decorative items during Chinese New Year.

WOODBLOCK PRINTS

Woodblock prints are often pasted on the gates of the house during Chinese New Year. These prints feature door gods of which there are two types, namely the marital door god and literary door god. The marital door gods are generals such as Shen Tu, Yu Lei, and Chin Chiung who are clad in full battle armor. Literary door gods are scholars and officials such as San-Hsing, Wu Tze Teng Ke and Chuang Kuan Chin Li.

The literary gods are often hung in courtyards and room doors inside the house. Believed to protect the home besides ushering in luck and wealth, these woodblock prints are also great decorative items that add cheer to the house during Chinese New Year.

KITCHEN GOD

Another Chinese New Year decoration involves the kitchen god. Many people strongly believe that the kitchen god reports the activities of the household to the heavens at the end of the lunar year. Once the report is delivered, the old image of the kitchen god is replaced by a new picture of that god. This new image is hung during Chinese New Year. So, make sure your report is a good one and you get merits for your behaviour all year long from the kitchen god!

INVERTED CHARACTERS

Another Chinese New Year decoration idea is to paste big diamonds of paper calligraphy with the inverted Chinese character 福 (fú /foo) on the doors of your home. Remember to tilt the square till they resemble the diamond shape. Fu refers to good fortune, and when you paste the character upside down, you want the good fortune to pour on you when you pass through your door.

BLOOMING FLOWERS

Flowers are beautiful and commonly used as decorative items in Malaysia. Celebrations across the nation are not complete without flowers and as for Chinese traditions, blooming flowers generally carry the meaning of prosperity and all things good.

For instance, orchids symbolise nobility, narcissuses are deemed to signify luck, and peonies represent prosperity and peace. Other commonly used flowers for CNY are plum blossoms, peach blossoms, azaleas, water lilies, chrysanthemums and sunflowers. Go wild with flowers and liven up your home.

Gong Xi Fa Chai!

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