Red Lanterns are a universal symbol of Chinese culture. Lanterns are seen throughout the year in China, and during special occasions like weddings, but red ones especially are seen during Chinese New Year, as they symbolize good fortune. If you’ve followed my pictures the past month, you’ve already seen quite a few red lanterns! They are pretty much everywhere you go during Spring Festival in China. Many homes and businesses keep them hanging year round, and Spring Festival is the time to purchase new ones. Red lanterns come in many sizes and shapes, although round is the most popular. They can be plain, have pictures or calligraphy, and usually have gold or red tassels hanging from the bottom.
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, Feb 6 - On Chinese New Year, It’s important for everyone to wear a complete outfit of new clothes, as it symbolizes a new start for the new year. In the stores, you see much more traditional style clothing than at other times, and of course the favorite color is red! Gold is also popular, and pink and purple for girls and ladies. Many people prefer Western styles nowadays, it seems the traditional styles are most popular for children. Colors can also vary, but the big no-no’s are black and white, these are the colors symbolizing funerals and death and are believed to bring bad luck if worn on New Year’s Day. Many people also have their hair washed and cut just before the New Year. Washing it on New Year’s Day is believed to wash away your luck, and using scissors for anything the first few days of the new year is considered bad luck because you are “cutting” your wealth.
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, Feb 3 -There is a Chinese idiom 红红火火 hóng hóng huǒ huǒ , literally “red red, fire fire.”
As you know by now, red is a very lucky, or auspicious color in China, and fire is considered to be very energetic. When you tell a person or business “hóng hóng huǒ huǒ”, it’s the equivalent of telling them “good luck.” During Chinese New Year, strings of chili peppers are used to represent this idiom.
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, January 28 - The traditional belief of the Chinese is that during the year of your zodiac sign, you will have bad luck…. But, you can wear red all year to change this! As you should know by now, red is THE color for everything lucky during Chinese New Year! In modern times, many people no longer believe as strongly in the traditional beliefs, but this one is fun :-) Luckily, red looks great on Chinese people, and, if they get tired of wearing red clothes every day, hopefully they have their red undergarments, socks, or jewelry. The key to these red items changing bad luck to good, is that someone else buys them for you; It doesn’t work if you buy them for yourself! The upcoming year will be the year of the Monkey, so, if you are close to a monkey, join in the Chinese celebrations and buy them some red underwear!
Years of the Monkey: Feb.20,1920-Feb.7,1921, Feb.6,1932-Jan.25,1933, Jan.25,1944-Feb.12,1945, Feb.12,1956-Jan.30,1957, Jan.30,1968-Feb.16,1969, Feb.16,1980-Feb.4,1981, Feb.4,1992-Jan.22,1993, Jan.22,2004-Feb.8,2005
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, January 17 - What westerners refer to as “Chinese New Year” is literally translated as “Spring Festival.” It is the most important holiday in China. Preparations begin weeks before, and the actual holiday includes the first 15 days of the lunar new year.
Spring Festival couplets, called chunlian , are very popular decorations, with the origin going back over a thousand years. A couplet is a very precisely written form of Chinese poetry which has two lines. These are posted vertically on either side of the doorway and a scroll with a more general message is often hung across the top of the doorway. They are typically written with black ink on red paper, but many today are also written in gold. Nowadays, you can buy all kinds of mass produced couplets, but I have also seen them being custom made.
I gave Leah the job of choosing our Spring Festival Couplets. Here is the best she can translate them, if anyone can give a more accurate translation, please do!
Scroll at top: Peace wherever you go
First Line (on right): Smooth sailing whole family happy together
Second Line (on left): May all your hopes be fulfilled full spring
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, January 15 -On Chinese New Year, it is a tradition for working adults to give cash-filled “hong bao 红包,” red envelopes or red packets, to children and other relatives. Who exactly gives and receives seems to vary quite a bit. Companies also usually give red envelopes to their employees. The traditional custom stresses that it is the red envelope that is important, wishing good luck and prosperity to the recipient, and the cash inside is just to make them happy. However, in our currently growing “digital age,” the past couple of years have seen a huge increase in people sending “lucky money” via mobile apps – I guess the importance of the red envelope itself is changing? The amount given should end in an even number, and not have any “4’s” in it, as “4” is unlucky in China. The money given should be new bills, and no coins. It is impolite for the recipient to open the envelope in front of the person who gave it to them. Red envelopes are also given for weddings and sometimes birthdays.
Life in China: A picture a Day 2016, January 12 - Today, my daughter, a friend, and I, went to the He Sheng Stationery Market in Dongguan. Chinese New Year this year is Feb 8th, so… the decorations are out! Everywhere you look, you see RED, RED, RED, with a little gold mixed in! Red is considered the luckiest color in China. Supposedly this is from ancient times when red was associated with fire, which provided people with safety, and it is also believed to ward off evil. Over the next month, I’ll probably share many more pictures of specific symbols related to Chinese New Year.