From mandarin trees to firecrackers, find out what all the Chinese New Year decorations really mean.
Every year, Chinese New Year is one of the biggest public holidays in Hong Kong, meaning that it’s the prime time for you to spend quality time with your family at home, or head out to feast on the scrumptious festive menus. With beautiful installations popping up across the 852, find out the meaning behind these Chinese New Year decorations and discover what will help you usher in good luck this new year.
Learn about Chinese New Year decorations
1. Chinese lanterns
Chinese red lanterns (燈籠) are typically used during the most prominent festivals, like the Spring Festival and Mid-Autumn Festival. Though these lanterns are not as popular during Chinese New Year, you’ll still be able to find them hung outside the doors of some shops and homes in the new year. Chinese lanterns are hung to symbolise happiness and are believed to drive out any bad luck. These are one of the most iconic Chinese New Year decorations that you’ll see across the city.
2. Chinese firecrackers
Find Chinese firecrackers (炮仗) outside many business establishments this Chinese New Year. These firecrackers represent happiness and festivities as they are loud and start the year with a bang – literally. Traditionally, they are lit in front of homes and stores in order to create noises that are meant to drive evil spirits away.
3. Paper cuttings
Paper cuttings are designs cut out of red paper, and are typically glued on windows or other transparent surfaces. The designs tend to be Chinese characters and images that are auspicious, such as fruits like mandarins and kumquat, as well as zodiac animals that reflect the year. Each character, fruit, and animal has a specific meaning, many of them representing longevity, honour, wealth, and prosperity.
4. Door couplets
These red and golden banners have messages of prosperity, good fortune, good health, and good luck. Door couplets tend to be indoors, such as in the living room, but they can also be found at the entrances to homes, shops, schools, businesses, and more.
5. Upside-down fuk (福)
The character fuk (pronounced as fook) is translated to mean good fortune. When it is placed upside-down, the symbolism suggests that luck is being poured onto the individual. The character is usually written on a diamond-shaped piece of red paper, then placed at the entrances of homes and businesses. Get ready for good fortune pouring in through the door!
6. Red packets
When it comes to Chinese New Year decorations that everyone loves to see, red packets (利是) definitely take the cake – because of what they contain! Red packets are typically used as envelopes to hold money, given from the married to their younger relatives as a sign of good luck and prosperity. Apart from that, you can also find red packets as decorations hung on kumquat, orange, and mandarin trees as a way to represent extra wealth.
7. Kumquat, orange, and mandarin trees
Kumquat (柑桔), in Cantonese, is phonetically transcribed as gum gut. And these two characters happen to sound the same as the words for “gold” (金) and “good luck” (吉). This is why kumquat trees, orange trees, and mandarin trees are often bought during Chinese New Year and placed in many homes to welcome wealth, luck, and prosperity.
8. Cherry blossoms, plum blossoms, and orchids
The delicate cherry blossoms, plum blossoms, and orchids are the first to bloom after winter. Hence, they signify spring, renewal of life, and a new beginning – all of which are what Chinese New Year is about. Moreover, these flowers bear long branches which are seen to symbolise longevity. These are the reasons why the blossoms are part of the Chinese tradition and are prominent Chinese New Year decorations.
[This article was originally published in December 2019 and updated in 2024 by Elaine Wong.]