Tag Archives: decorations

Decorating the door

12 Feb
Our door - ready to welcome the new year!

Our door – ready to welcome the new year!

One of the traditions for the new year in China is decorating the door with words of good luck and fortune for the upcoming year.  The piece of paper on the sides are called “chun lian” (春联) which roughly translates into “communication with the spring” and the piece on the top is “he nian men tou” (贺年门头)which is kind of like “connecting the years at the top of the door.”

In traditional times you would paste it on the outside door and then it would slowly over the course of the year come off because it was exposed to the weather.  Since we live in an apartment I expect that we will need to remove it ourselves sometime in the summer when it is obvious that the beginning of the year is over.

The sayings that are written on each piece have special meaning and I have to confess that they are beyond my ability for Chinese translation.  This year that was one of Li’s jobs to choose the saying that will lead us into the new year.  I do know that the piece on top of the door says “万事如意“ which means literally 10,000 good things.  That seems like a good New Year’s wish.

One additional decoration that I have especially noticed this year was lots of blossoms in the advertisements.  Below was a beautiful display in the building across the street from my office.  It looked like a fairy land between two very expensive name brand stores.  I like this type of decoration as it reminds me that spring is coming soon (despite the frigid temperatures we have had recently).

New year decorations of a more formal variety in a shopping mall

New year decorations of a more formal variety in a shopping mall

I wonder if I could start a new Chinese tradition by decorating a door with blossoms?

More snake decorations are also showing up since I made my post on Sunday.  The doors of my apartment building now have a pair of cute snakes in traditional Chinese garb welcoming all visitors.

What type of holiday decorations do you enjoy the most?  If you had to post a message on the outside of your door welcoming the new year, what message makes the most sense to you?


Welcoming the Year of the Snake

10 Feb

Each year as the lunar calendar turns the page a different animal gets front and center in the Chinese psyche.  The year we are just finishing was the year of the dragon, a very auspicious year, that was considered lucky for getting married and having babies.  A baby boom occurred in my office with three pregnancies out of 30 women in my department.  Quite a high percentage for one year!

This year  (starting Sunday) is the year of the snake.  The snake year is an important one for Li as it is “his year.”

Last year with the year of the dragon, everyone was talking about China rising and the dragon from the east overpowering the west.  Snake year is a little harder to make those kind of statements.  Snakes can look very evil very easily and so most people have gone to the other extreme with very cute snakes that look like something out of a children’s book or a cartoon series.

The ubiquitous hong bao!  This one with a cute little snake

The ubiquitous hong bao! This one with a cute little snake

For me snakes conjure up memories of my younger cousin who was obsessed with snakes when we were growing up.  He’s now in his 20s so it’s not a current memory, but a strong one.  I also remember our trip to Bohol last year when we saw the snake below up close.

Can you feel the scales?

Can you feel the scales?

Finally, due to my western upbringing, snakes make me think of the original snake story – Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden – snake as a temptress.

This last image is one that is supported in a strange way by many of the ads that are appearing – using snakes to tempt you to buy a watch or a car or anything else that they may feel like.

Here are a few snake images that I’ve seen over the last couple of weeks.

A modern take on the snake - but still mildly threatening

A modern take on the snake – but still mildly threatening

This free form version stretched over two stories in a shopping mall close to our place

This free form version stretched over two stories in a shopping mall close to our place

This one is selling jewelry - a well known Hong Kong brand.

This one is selling jewelry – a well known Hong Kong brand.

Which is your favorite?

Happy year of the snake to you all!  蛇年快乐!万事如意!新年大吉大利!身体健康!我给你们拜年! Happy snake year – best wishes for a year of prosperity, health and all good things!

Sweet treats and Christmas wishes

20 Dec
Frosted wreaths?  Fa la la la la

Frosted wreaths? Fa la la la la

I was in the bread store by my house looking to buy some toast and happened to notice that they had gone all out for Christmas.  I snapped a photo because the bread was so cute.

Candy cane twists (or Santa's stick as the sign said)

Candy cane twists (or Santa’s stick as the sign said)

The best part however was that the women working in the shop were also wearing hats with attached sparkly reindeer antlers.  I didn’t have the guts to take a photo with them, but the hats certainly made me smile.

Can't forget we're in China!

Can’t forget I’m in China!

In the last week the Christmas decorations really have gone into overdrive.  Even my apartment complex has put up Santa cut-outs on the doors and there is a Christmas tree on the first floor by the mailboxes.  I got a massage and the dental clinic next door had a tree with a pile of wrapped presents under it.

One of the things that I really enjoy about China is that people aren’t so worried about being “politically correct.”  At McDonalds they wear Santa hats, at the bread store there are sparkly reindeer antlers.  People dress up in all kinds of costumes and outfits for work and don’t really worry too much about it.  That sense of fun appeals to me.

That said, I am very much looking forward to heading home for Christmas and celebrating with family and friends.  As such, I’ll be taking a break from the blog through the end of the year to focus on what is really important – sharing time with loved ones.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of my readers!  Thank you for your support and I’ll see you in 2013!  I wonder what will happen next year?

Sparkles in Xintiandi

18 Dec

Another one of my favorite decorations during this holiday time in Shanghai is the white lights that surround Xintiandi park.  Each evening as I walk home from work I am surrounded by their twinkles.  The reflections on the water with the apartments behind make the walk home even more soothing than normal.

Xintiandi stars

We’ve had some cold weather (close to freezing), and it was even cold and clear for quite a while.  Those nights, if I looked closely I can just pick out a couple of real stars far above in the night sky.  With Christmas coming that has even more meaning.

Twinkle, twinkle little star…

What twinkles in your life?

It’s the holiday season

13 Dec

This year for some reason the Christmas decorations and music seem to be even more prevalent than in years past.  I’ve bopped to Jingle Bell Rock in the elevator going to see a client and heard Feliz Navidad while having lunch with a co-worker.

My local supermarket - do you believe it?

My local supermarket – do you believe it?

Lights and Santa Claus statues and all kinds of strange wrapped presents are on the street and I just got an email from Time Out Shanghai emphasizing the different Christmas markets this year – and markets is plural.  Starbucks has the Christmas drinks and even peppermint hot chocolate!

I showed this photo to a friend and she said that it looked like Kmart!

I showed this photo to a friend and she said that it looked like Kmart!

Visiting here, someone who doesn’t know about the culture of China would probably think that they actually celebrate Christmas here.

That is actually not true.

I hypothesize that if I stopped 10 people on the street and asked them what they think Christmas is and what it means I would get many different answers, but the probability of them being correct would be pretty low.  It is kind of like weddings in China – people do a lot of things that look like western weddings but don’t know what those things actually represent or the stories behind them.  I can get very cynical about this.

But, since I am going home for Christmas this year – instead I am enjoying the music and lights and decorations.  I am considering them my own personal holiday prep getting me ready for the real deal back in the States.  It’s the holiday season!

Happy Holiday!

The link above is to the song Happy Holiday by Andy Williams.  My first Christmas in China my roommate really loved this song and we probably listened to it 100s of times over the month of December.  It now has become a great memory and a true sign for me of Christmas.

Have you celebrated Christmas in a place where it is not traditionally celebrated?  What type of interesting traditions did you observe?

Welcoming the new year

24 Jan

Living in China, I am lucky enough to celebrate two new year’s celebrations, with the second, the lunar new year being much more important.  There is a week off of work and this year, because of the lunar calendar there were only three weeks between my Christmas break and the lunar new year.  It is tradition to welcome the new year into your apartment.  This year – with New Year’s Eve on Sunday and Chinese Lunar New Year on Monday is the year of the dragon, hence the little dragons in our New Year’s door decorations.  Here are some photos.

Welcoming the new year into the apartment

More dragons.

Close up of the dragons


Decorating the door of the apartment building - aren't they cute?

 More traditional – wishing for wealthy and prosperity.

The neighbor's door - 福 means wealth

 The color red is an integral part of the festival and is everywhere this time of year.  There are annual parties (my company’s this year was Friday the 13th), people in the streets buying fruit baskets as gifts, and lots and lots of toasting.  My colleagues equate Chinese New Year with Christmas, but in my mind it is more like a week of Thanksgiving with a touch of the Fourth of July.  It’s a week of family and too much food and staying up late to look at the never ending fireworks. Now that this is the fifth Chinese New Year that I’m celebrating, the traditional phrases are starting to fall off my lips, but that doesn’t mean that they are any less genuine.
新年快乐!祝你们身体健康,万事如意,龙年大吉!(Xin nian kaui le! Zhu nimen shenti jiankang, wan shi ru yi, long nian da ji!)
Happy New Year! I wish you all health, 10,000 good things and a dragon year full of blessings.

Holiday Spirit

22 Dec

We went to the movies one night and brought the camera to capture some of the Christmas cheer around Huaihai Road.  Even in Shanghai there are quite a few Christmas decorations.  Tis the season!

Deck the Halls

20 Dec

With the holiday season kicking off I decided to decorate a little.

Every time I look at my little marshmellow snowman I want to smile.

Can you find the chopstick?

Happy Advent!

Hopefully I’ll be able to post some of the decorations on the street as well – there are some killer light displays.  We’ll see.

Enjoying now

Today is a present

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