5 Chinese New Year Decorations and What They Mean

Chinese New Year is celebrated every year, and while the year’s animal might change, the traditions stay firmly the same. Also known as the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, it’s celebrated across China, Vietnam, Korea, Mongolia and Tibet. Some elements of the celebration change across and even within countries, so we’ll do our best to explain the most popular Chinese New Year decorations and traditions!

Chinese Red Lanterns

These beautiful red hanging lanterns are designed to ward off bad luck. They can be hung absolutely everywhere – in the streets, in offices, and in the doors of houses. Red represents wealth, fame and prosperity, and these lanterns are also used for festivals and weddings.

Most lanterns are round, which symbolises wholeness and togetherness – it’s also reminiscent of the full moon, which appears on the last day of the Chinese New Year celebrations.

Chinese new year paper hanging decorations

Our circular lanterns show a stylised version of the character for Fu, meaning luck, and come in a pair for additional auspiciousness! 

We also have a tutorial on how to make your own mini Chinse New Year lanterns – these are finished off with Horse decorations, but you can simply leave them off the design.

Door Couplets

To someone who doesn’t understand Chinese, these red banners look just like beautiful decorations – but they’re actually a source of poetry.

Usually written in black ink on red paper, the two banners – and there must always be two, because even numbers are connected to good luck – are positioned either side of the doorway during the New Year period, sometimes with a smaller third banner across the doorframe.

The poems themselves aren’t easy – each of the two lines needs to have the same number of words, and the format and rhythm should be complementary or identical across the two. Here are some classic examples:

海阔凭鱼跃,天高任鸟飞

A wide sea lets fish jump; a high sky lets birds fly.

路遥知马力,日久见人心

Distance tests a horse’s strength; time reveals a person’s heart.

帆风顺年年好,万事如意步步高

Smooth sailing with each year; success with each step.

Paper Cuttings

Beautifully intricate designs are cut out of red paper and glued to either a contrasting backing or a clear surface like a window. These can depict anything auspicious, such as peaches to symbolise longevity, pine trees for eternal youth, mandarin ducks for love or peonies for honour and wealth.

Another common element to paper cuttings is the symbol Fu, which means fortune. In some areas the character is placed upside down, indicating that the home wants good fortune to pour out.

The Colour Red

Although we’ve touched on this in most of our entries so far, the importance of the colour red to Chinese New Year cannot be understated.

Red is the colour of fire and symbolises good fortune and gold. A common gift for children at Chinese New Year is money inside a red envelope – the colour in this case symbolising luck and prosperity. The amount of money inside should be in an even number for good luck, and for the best fortune a crisp new note is preferred to coins.

Chinese New Year decorations and fortune cookies

All our gorgeous Chinese New Year decorations are in a red and gold colour scheme, using the symbolism of gold  for wealth to create an even more auspicious backdrop to your celebrations. You can see here how we’ve used small round gold confetti to make it look like the table has been sprinkled with money!

When you attend a Chinese New Year celebration you’ll see red absolutely everywhere, from the paper firecrackers to the dancing dragon that scares away the evil spirits.

Citrus Trees

Plants are very popular around the Chinese New Year, but they have to be the right kind of plants. Oranges and tangerines are very popular – partially because the Chinese words for them sound like the words for luck and wealth, and partially because the beautiful orange orbs resemble gold.

Kumquat trees are a particular favourite, as their fruit is so prolific, and are usually given as a gift in pairs to symbolise doubling the wealth. 

While we don’t have everything you need to celebrate Chinese New Year – kumquat trees are a little out of our wheelhouse – it shouldn’t be difficult to find the red paper needed for some of these fabulous decorations!

Now that you know the basics of Chinese New Year decorating, it’s time to put that knowledge into practice! Bring prosperity to your home with our gorgeous Chinese New Year party supplies or have a go at making your own.