The 福 placement IS supposed to be upside-down.
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As the MCO extends past our Chinese New Year public holidays, 2021’s Year of the Ox celebrations are shaping up to be rather solitary affair.
For most people, Chinese New Year is celebrated at the family home or in hometowns. The older generation, with their many decades of experience, will probably be able to set up CNY decorations in a day. But what about the rest of us, stuck away from family without our mother’s guidance on where to put what for the maximum prosperity? Where do we begin?
No worries, because this super easy guide will help you bring ong to your house and impress your parents when you show them your crib through video call.
1. The Twin Scrolls (Spring Couplets)
These twin scrolls of written calligraphy are often a wish or saying that should always be put up as a pair. Called chunlian (春联), they should be hung on both sides of entryways. They also should not be separated as pairs and even numbers often represent good luck.
Spring couplets having common wishes and sayings written vertically from top-to-bottom, usually celebrating the arrival of spring and fortune. Modern couplets have standalone phrases, so it may not neccesarily matter which side you would put them on.
2. The Upside-Down Diamond Fú (福)
You may not have realized that this decoration was even upside-down to begin with, especially if you don’t recognize Mandarin.
The word Fú (福) stands for fortune or prosperity, and it’s usually printed onto a diamond-shaped red paper. You can choose to keep the paper upright or upside-down, but never in a square shape!
The reason for this is because the Chinese word for upside-down (倒) sounds a lot like the word for arrival (到), so placing the Fú upside-down means that “Prosperity will arrive”.
You should place this on your front door, to “invite” prosperity to arrive at your house.
3. Paper cuttings
These delicate, intricate paper cuttings often include greetings of fortune or spring, but also commonly depict the animals of the Chinese zodiac (this year’s animal would be the ox).
They should be placed on windows so that the delicate cutouts are showcased in the sunlight, much like stained glass art. Modern paper cuttings would come with a thin layer of adhesive for easy application and removal.
4. Chinese Lanterns
Chinese lanterns don’t really need much introduction as one of the most popular decorations around.
They are generally meant to hold a light source and shine with a festive bright red light. However, big sturdy Chinese New Year lanterns powered by electricity can cost a pretty penny and also take up space, which is why it’s completely fine to replace it with red packet lanterns.
If you have lots of old red packets lying around, this is an easy way to create easy, cheap, festive “lanterns”, and it’s a simple craft to do with kids too. Here’s a quick tutorial.
5. A mandarin obsession
Chinese New Year means a lot of mandarin oranges because the name for mandarin oranges in Cantonese is kam, which sounds similar to the word for gold. Plus, the small round citrus fruits look like gold too, since traditionally Chinese currency were round gold coins.
As such, you can place mandarin oranges in a bowl to signify an abundance of wealth.
If you have green thumbs, you can even buy mandarin trees in plant nurseries (they are often about waist-height and can live in a big pot) to have “thriving wealth”. For bonus wealth, you can staple or tie ang pau packets onto the tree too.
6. Cherry blossoms and pussy willows
Chinese New Year is actually also called the Spring Festival, because it celebrates (you guessed it) the coming of spring. Both the cherry blossom and pussy willow plants hold great significance in Chinese culture because they bloom in early spring, symbolizing the passing of winter and the coming of warmer weather, which is a huge deal in countries with seasons.
Since Malaysia does not have four seasons, it’s been adopted merely as thematic decorations to brighten up the house for Chinese New Year. They’re also super pretty, and if you buy artificial plant decorations, they can be reused for multiple other occasions.
Now you might be confused how fishes of all things are related to Chinese New Year. This is yet another example of Chinese wordplay!
In Mandarin, fish (鱼) is pronounced the same way as surplus (余) as yü. A common saying is 年年有余, translated to “may you have surplus every year”, or basically may you have more than you can spend.
Thus, having fishes would symbolise this surplus and abundance of wealth during your years.
These simple tips will get you started to have a festive Chinese New Year all in the comfort of your own home! May you all have a prosperous new year!
Anne is an advocate of sustainable living and the circular economy, and has managed to mum-nag the team into using reusable containers to tapau food. She is also a proud parent of 4 cats and 1 rabbit.