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Decorating for good fortune

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Chinese New Year (CNY), the most important holiday in the Chinese calendar, is the time when we habitually open our doors to friends and loved ones. We may be limited to small groups this year but it’s still a great excuse to brighten up our homes with a little festive finery. CNY decorations help create a celebratory mood and they also encourage the Metal Ox to bless us with health, wealth and happiness.

The traditional way to decorate at Lunar New Year is to hang auspicious red paper scrolls, emblazoned with classical Chinese couplets and the Chinese characters for good fortune, wealth and the coming of spring. Place a scroll with the 福 character [fú], meaning good fortune, upside down on your front door, to bid guests a warm welcome and signify good times ahead.

At CNY, any red decorative item will immediately up the ante and the easiest way to boost your decor is by styling up with bold Shanghainese-red accessories. This is easily done with wellchosen, inexpensive home accessories, like scatter cushions, table napkins and candles. Note that red (and metal) ox figurines are likely to sell like hot cakes this year, as are red flowers of every variety.

You can also rework classic Oriental accents to create the right mood. Pick up some miniature birdcages and use them as candleholders, or introduce red lanterns, lit up as a group either on the floor or as a table centrepiece.

Since the colour gold represents luck, prosperity and happiness, it’s a perennially popular decorating choice at CNY, and for 2021, you can also introduce a little white in order to celebrate the Metal Ox. Feng shui says white is this year’s lucky colour, making it an excellent addition to any home decor.

Tradition dictates that you lay out a CNY candy tray, filled with candied melons for good health, and red melon seeds symbolising happiness. It should also contain dried lychees and desiccated coconut to promote strong family ties; kumquats for prosperity; and peanuts for long life. Offer your guests eight varieties of dried fruit to give them a sweet start to CNY.

Customs worth keeping
On February 10, the day before Lunar New Year’s Eve, you need to set to and clean house. This will clear out any bad vibes picked up over the past year and allow good luck to come in. Once through, put away your brooms and brushes – you can’t touch them again until February 13, lest you sweep out all the luck that you’ve just made room for.

Lunar New Year is a public holiday because it’s unlucky to work at this time. You need to avoid work of all kinds, housework too, so prepare meals for Lunar New Year’s Eve and Lunar New Year’s Day in advance. If you haven’t done so already, February 10 is also the day to decorate your home for CNY.

On February 11, Lunar New Year’s Eve, the trick is not to do too much. What’s important is that you get together with family and friends for a celebratory (pre-prepared) meal to welcome in a new, prosperous year. Come midnight, open every door and window in your home so as to release any bad vibes associated with the outgoing Year of the Rat.

On February 12, Lunar New Year’s Day, you already know not to work, cook or clean. Be mindful not to wash your hair, as this will wash away your luck, and don’t use knives or scissors, as this cuts your luck.

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