Spring Festival—often called Chinese New Year, which it is, although it’s called Spring Festival—is without question the biggest holiday season in China. Part of the celebration of the New Year is that homes, offices, shops and public streets are covered with decorations. Of course, these all have special meanings. So if you want to catch with the assimilation process follow these directions.
“Fu” means luck – the most common, anyway, as the Chinese language has about 40 words for luck. It more broadly means auspiciousness, blessings or happiness. This character is everywhere, all through the year. Its most often painted on a diamond and placed in the middle of a door. What surprises some is that it’s usually turned upside down. This is because the word for upside down, Dào (倒), is the same as arrive, (到). So to say, “luck turned upside-down,” sounds the same as, “luck has arrived.”
The Chinese Knot
The Chinese Knot with its long tassels also has a long history. It is weaved of shéng (绳, red rope), which sounds similar to the word for god (神, shén) and makes this knot a very blessed one. One component of the character for knot is the character 吉, pronounced Jí, which stands for abundance of good meaning and as such includes all that a person cold wish for—fortune, wealth, long life, happiness, security and good health. Just as it comes with abundance of meaning, it also comes in a myriad of colors and sizes.
Fish – Yú 鱼
Fish are a common motif of Chinese New Year decorations, and it’s customary to eat fish during the Chinese New Year. The reason is the sound of the word fish, is the same as the word Yú, meaning surplus (the leftover money or food stores left over at the end of the year). A common Chinese New Year greeting is “Nián nián yǒu yú” which means both, “every year have fish” (年年有鱼) and “every year have surplus” (年年有余). The meaning has spread to the point that fish are everywhere—paintings, cards, paper cuttings, even the popularity of koi ponds can be traced back to this meaning.
The Treasurer – Cáishén yé 财神爷
The God of Wealth is probably the most popular man at the god market. According to folk legend, his birthday falls on the fifth day of the first lunar month, adding another important cause of celebration to Spring Festivities. There are several versions of the god which all have their own target group—from civilians to the military—but are all based on historical personalities. The most common God of Wealth, especially among business people whom he wishes gōngxǐ fācái (恭喜发财, prosperity), is based on Zhao Gongming, a charitable entrepreneur of the Qin Dynasty.
Jīn tóng yù nǚ 金童玉女
Called the “Golden Boy” and “ Jade Girl,” these chubby kids always have red, round faces and wear traditional Chinese dress. It’s said they can bring good fortune and prosperity all year long. These two children are based on aristocratic children, as well-fed kids are symbols of wealth and prosperity—throughout most of history, fat kids have been rich.