Lucky Character: The single word “Fook,” or fortune, is often displayed in many homes and stores and are frequently found written by brush on a diamond-shaped piece of red paper. This is supposed to be a lucky Chinese New Year symbol. Though Fook (Fu in Mandarin) is widely used to refer to wealth and good fortune, it also includes many other things such as career, health, love, children, etc. In Chinese, the word for “upside down” (dou, or dao in Mandarin) is a homonym with the word “arrives.” Therefore the Fook character is often displayed upside down, together meaning, “good fortune arrives.”
Firecrackers: Firecrackers are a common tradition during the Chinese New Years. One popular belief behind the ritual is that the noise will awaken the dragon to fly across the sky and bring the spring rain for crops. Another belief is that the exploding noise of the firecrackers will scare away all evil spirits and misfortunes, preventing them from coming into the New Year. In ancient times they were lit to scare away the beast called Nin (Nian in Mandarin) who supposedly ate people. Thus, “guo nin,” which now means to pass through the new year, originally meant to “survive the beast.”
Lion Dance: This festive dance originated in China nearly a thousand years ago and is regarded as a guardian creature for good luck and blessings. The most common mythological tale associated with the Chinese lion dance is the story of the monster Nian, who terrorized villages by eating livestock, crops, and even villagers themselves on the first day of Chinese New Years. After witnessing the horrors, a Buddhist monk instructed the villagers to create a monster of their own to scare away Nian the following year. Combined with firecrackers, the accompanying loud music, and red flags, Nian is said to have been scared away each time the dance is performed.
Lai-See Envelopes: (Also called Hong-Bao) Money is placed in red envelopes and given to children and young adults during the Chinese New Years. The red color of the envelope symbolizes good luck and is supposed to ward off evil spirits. It is said that in China, during the Qing Dynasty, the elderly would thread coins with a red string. The money was called “ysui qian,” meaning “money warding off evil spirits,” and was believed to protect the elderly from sickness and death. Red envelopes replaced the “ysui qian” when printing presses became more common.
Spring Couplets: Spring couplets are traditionally written with black ink on red paper. These ornaments are hung in storefronts in the month before the Chinese New Year’s Day, and often stay up for two months. They express best wishes and fortune for the coming year. The message of the Spring Couplet can vary from household to household. A store would generally use couplets that make references to their line of trade. For example, couplets that say “Happy New Year” and “Continuing Advancement in Education” are appropriate for a school.
Flowers: Plum Blossoms: This flower symbol stands for courage and hope. Water Narcissus: This flower symbol signifies good luck and fortune. If the white flowers blossom on the day of the New Year, it is believed to indicate good fortune for the ensuing twelve months.
Peony: This flower is said to be a symbol of wealth.
Koi Fish: This favorite marine creature symbolizes surplus or having additional savings so that you’ll have more than enough to live on throughout the remaining year.