Chinese New Year is just around the corner. 2019’s Chinese New Year will be celebrated on February 5. Over the course of these few weeks, I am re-publishing a series of posts that I wrote last year to help explain this great holiday and how its celebrated.
There is a great deal of symbolism involved in the decorations and traditions that surround Chinese New Year. Some of this symbolism comes from superstitions in Chinese society, some from plays on words in the Chinese language, and others from traditional Chinese legends.
Firecrackers are widely used on Chinese New Years Eve and throughout the fifteen-day holiday season between Spring Festival and Lantern Festival. Firecrackers are lit to scare away evil spirits and bad luck that would otherwise come in the new year. They are symbolic of the firecrackers used to scare away the legendary monster, Nian (more on Nian in the next post).
Fish is another common symbol around the new year. Fish shaped ornaments are used to decorate homes because the Chinese word for ‘fish’ sounds the same as the Chinese word for ‘abundance’ which means having more than you need of something. In this way, Chinese people hang up fish decorations in the hope that they will be prosperous in the new year.
The 福 (pronounced Fu) character is commonly affixed upside down to the doors of homes at Chinese New Year. This is because Fu means blessing, and the Chinese character for ‘upside down’ sounds the same as the word for ‘arrive’. This is a play on words that means ‘Blessing arrives’.
Even the food at Chinese New Year isn’t exempt from symbolism. Dumplings represent togetherness, noodles represent longevity (long life), and sticky rice cakes signify improving fortune.
There is truly a great amount of symbolism throughout the Chinese New Year celebration. Symbolism can be found in almost every part of the holiday. One of the most interesting points of symbolism, however, is surprisingly similar to a symbol found in the Bible. But more on that in the last post…