There are many festivals and events celebrated in China throughout the year. The Chinese new year is, however, the longest and most important festival celebrated in the Chinese calendar. The Chinese new year is an important time as it marks new beginnings where family and friends come together to usher in a new year.
As such, almost everything about the festival is symbolic. From the decorations to the food to the attires and even the dances, there is a meaning behind each aspect of the festival. In this post, we will be looking at what the main symbols of the Chinese New Year are and what they represent.
Symbols Of Chinese New Year And Meaning.
The Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring festival. After all, it marks the beginning of Spring. It’s also referred to as the Lunar New Year because it’s the first day on the Lunar calendar. Because it is a time when loved ones welcome a new year, the main theme of the celebration is good luck and fortune. As a result, a lot of what is done, used, or eaten during the Chinese new year symbolizes the wish for good luck and success in the new year, among other things. The following are some of the major symbols in Chinese New Year and their possible meaning:
The color red is seen as a highly auspicious color in China. It is seen as a representation of life and prosperity. As such you will not that red is featured in most Chinese celebrations from birthdays to weddings to successful business deals. It is therefore only fitting that such an important lucky color be incorporated into the most important festival and celebration in the Chinese calendar. That is why if you ever attend a Chinese New Year celebration you will not that red is the dominant color. The Chinese incorporate it into the celebration as a way of welcoming the long life and prosperity with the new year.
While fish is a major ingredient in many of the Chinese cuisines, that is not the reason why it is an important symbol in the Chinese new year. The Chinese word for fish is similar to the Chinese word for abundance. As such, the Chinese hang up fish-shaped decorations around and outside their home during the new year celebration. They do this in the hope that it will bring an abundance of wealth and prosperity and a good beginning to the new year.
These are simply two long red strips, placed vertically parallel to one another on either side of the door. The Duilian usually have Chinese sayings written on them which represent the wishes and expectations of the Chinese during the new year. The sayings include phrases like “Da Zhan Hong Tu” (May you achieve your great plan), or “Shi Ru Yi” (May everything be as you wish). Although it’s a simple decoration, the Duilian is an important and revered Chinese New Year symbol, which the Chinese believe will bring good fortune throughout the year.
Plum and Peach Blossoms.
In Chinese culture, peach blossoms symbolize love, long life, and prosperity. Plum blossom on the other hand represents courage and hope as well as standing strong in the face of difficulty. Hanging these blossoms in homes as decorations during the New Year celebrations is a symbol of the beginning of a cycle that will yield in abundance in the new year. Peach blossoms are also hanged by single Chinese looking for love in the coming year.
Water Narcissus Flower.
Aside from plum and peach blossoms, these flowers are also very important and symbolic decorations in Chinese culture. This beautiful white flower is a symbol of good luck and prosperity. The fact that it blossoms around the time of the new year is taken as a sign by the Chinese that the entire year will be filled with good fortune. That is why the Chinese hang the Narcissus blossoms up in their homes and anticipate their blossoming every new year.
Also known as Sycee, this was the first type of money used in Ancient China. It is a silver or gold ingot shaped like a boat with a small bump in the middle. Although Yuanbaos are not in use today, the Chinese still display imitations of them in their homes and offices during the new year. They believe that by doing this, they are attracting wealth into their homes and business with the new year.
This is also an important lucky symbol in the Chinese New Year Festival. The Yule log is a special log beautifully decorated with red ribbons and glitter. As part, of Chinese New Year traditions, the log would be dragged to the fireplace every new year after being adorned. As per the customs the log would burn for an entire night and then be left to smolder for twelve days which represented the twelve months of the year. After the twelve days, the log would be put out in a regal manner. Performing this custom is a must every year as the Chinese believe it symbolizes the light coming with the new year to conquer the darkness of the past.
Chinese Red Lanterns.
Another symbol of light during this festival is the Chinese red lanterns. Aside from being a symbol of good luck and prosperity, these lanterns are also seen as a guiding light for the family’s kitchen god to the Jade emperor. Each family hangs a red lantern so that the kitchen god can give a good report to the Jade emperor who will, in turn, bless them with a good harvest and wealth in the coming year. The lanterns also serve as a guiding light to the Kitchen god back to the family’s home.
Aside from good luck and prosperity, New year celebrations are also about the chasing away of evil and negative energy as the new year is being ushered in. The firecrackers are symbolic of the noise from the firecrackers that were used to scare off the legendary Nian beast who wouldn’t let the Chinese celebrate the new year. By hanging firecrackers outside the house during new year’s eve, the Chinese believe that they are scaring off evil spirits and misfortune before the new year arrives.
8 Chinese New Year Food Symbols.
Aside from decorations and customs, even the food eaten during the Chinese New Year is symbolic. Here are 8 of the Chinese New Year food symbols:
This is sauteed rice cake made with sticky rice always served during the holidays. The word Gao means ‘higher’. Therefore, eating sticky rice cake during the new year celebration symbolizes the high expectations one has for the coming year. There is also a Chinese legend that states there is a Kitchen god assigned by the Jade Emperor to watch over households. Each new year the Kitchen god must report back to the emperor about each family so they can be placed or punished accordingly. That is why Chinese families serve Gao during New Year, to bribe the Kitchen god and so that his mouth will be too sticky to give a bad report to the emperor.
Known as ‘mein’ in Chinese, noodles are seen as a symbol of long life which is why they are served during birthday celebrations and also during Chinese new year celebrations. Serving noodles in the new year symbolizes the wish for long and healthy life in the coming year. Each group or family has its way of making noodles. Some add chicken, others pork, and so on.
Dumplings are another popular dish during the Lunar New Year. That is because dumplings are shaped like and resemble golden ingots, a form of currency in ancient China. According to the Chinese, ingots symbolize wealth, therefore, serving dumplings during the New year celebration represents the wish to receive money and wealth with the new year.
In China, ducks are seen as symbols of fertility. For that reason, serving duck recipes during the Chinese New Year represents the wish of abundance and a good harvest in the coming year. It could also represent the wish of a couple to give birth to a child in the new year. A popular duck dish is the Peking duck which is roasted with the meat skillfully curved and served on the crispy skin.
Dragon and Phoenix
Although these are mystical creatures, they are powerful symbols, especially during the new year festival. When it comes to cuisine, the lobster and shrimp are a representation of the dragon as well as a symbol of energy and longevity. Phoenix on the other hand, which is a symbol of harmony is represented by poultry like chicken. In this particular dish where the dragon meets the phoenix, the lobster and shrimp are sauteed in a delicate white sauce on one side and chunks of crispy chicken on brown sauce are on the other side.
Flounder Dragon Boat.
As we’ve already discussed, fish is an important symbol of abundance, therefore and an important dish to serve on new year’s. In Wong’s variation, the crispy body of the fish is served like a decorative shell made to seem like a boat. On top of it is a sliced flounder fillet, sauteed with vegetables and delicate sauce. Hence the name flounder dragon boat. Serving this on new year’s represents the wish for abundance and prosperity in the coming year.
Shanghai Bok Choy and Black Mushrooms.
In Asia, the color green is associated with money. Serving bok choy, the Asian green vegetable, with black mushroom is a great good luck dish for vegetarians. Given that green vegetables symbolize money, eating them during the Spring festival or Chinese Lunar New Year, represents one’s wish to be rich or gain wealth and success in the coming year.
As we’ve already mentioned the celebration of the Chinese New Year is an important one as it is the beginning of a new year. If the year is to go well, the Chinese believe that all these symbolic decorations, customs, and food must be incorporated. That way as they usher in the new year, they also welcome good luck and fortune and drive away evil and negative energy.