Many items in Chinese culture are filled with symbolism, and the new year, which begins Jan. 28, 2017, is a perfect time to revisit a few. Here are some of the more common items — edible and decorative — that are considered must-haves in many homes during Lunar New Year.
The word for mandarin orange is kam (in the Cantonese dialect), which sounds like the word for gold. The vibrant hue is also a plus, and you’ll usually find a bowl of the fruit placed on dining tables and sideboards.
Swap in mandarins for the oranges (and flowers) in this centerpiece for a truly Chinese New Year look — one that will work well for dinners hosted throughout the year. Try experimenting with color combinations.
If an entire tree isn’t an option, take a cue from this photo and arrange cut branches in a vessel.
But if live flowers are what you’re after …
With a little imagination, this vase could pass for an abstract rendition of a pineapple, another food rich in symbolism.
The gifting and eating of pineapple tarts is popular throughout and beyond this season. These yuanbao, or ingot-shaped tarts, are named for an ancient form of Chinese money and symbolize the attraction of wealth into a home or office. These days, imitation gold ingots are used as well.
These paired hangings of poetry usually carry good wishes for prosperity, health and more.
Paper cuttings. A common cutting shows the Chinese character fook, which means wealth. They’re usually hung upside down to symbolize money pouring into the home or office.
Food symbolism. Mandarin oranges, fish, dumplings, abalone — the foods used in celebrating this season span land and sea. A common sight in Chinese homes is the Tray of Togetherness, a round tray (its shape symbolizes completeness or togetherness) with eight (an auspicious number) compartments filled with dried fruits, sweets and other snacks for visitors.
The nian gao, or year cake, seen here may also be included on the tray. (Read more about food symbolism here.) In the Chinese language, nian gao infers that one will prosper more each year.
For double the auspiciousness, nian gao may be shaped as carp, which symbolize good fortune.
Salad days. Feasting during the Chinese New Year isn’t complete without the lo hei, loosely translated as tossing up good fortune. Also known as yusheng, it’s an appetizer course that’s essentially a salad of sliced raw fish, julienned vegetables, crushed crackers and a variety of sauces and condiments, all mixed together while auspicious phrases are said as each ingredient is added to the plate.
Tell us: How do you decorate for Chinese New Year? Share your tips and photos in the Comments.