I know Chinese New Year was two weeks ago, but I've been on vacation since then and am just now getting around to blogging about it. In past years, I just haven't blogged about Chinese New Year since I couldn't blog in "real time." But this year, I set a few short autoposts before I took off on vacation (worship, candy, blessing fruits), and for the rest of this week I want to share a little more about some of the customs and traditions that surround this all important holiday.
So, let's talk today about red papers. In the first two photos below, you can see one of my bestest friends in the whole wide world and her father pasting red papers around the door to their home and place of business.
Each year new "spring couplets" (春聯) are posted around the door frames of homes. They are left up all year--or until they come down on their own accord. Some get quite weathered and/or faded as the year passes, but they are left till the following year, when they will be replaced by new papers.
These spring couplets can either be purchased factory made, handmade, made to order (while you watch the guy paint/write), or you can make your own. The characters on the papers are written in either black or gold ink--but the paper is always, always red.
My friend's grandfather made the single four word "blessing" (not "couplet") that hung on my door when I lived in Kaohsiung. The video below shows a man writing the words for blessing that was hung on my Taiwanese father's home.
These "spring couplets" aren't simply lines from poems. They are often "lucky words" or words that tell people how to treat others (kinda like the Chinese version of the "golden rule"). If Christian families in Taiwan want to paste "spring couplets" they will choose verses from Scripture or phrases that proclaim how great God is.
In addition to the "couplets," the words "blessing" and "spring" are written on squares of red paper that are at an angle so they look like diamonds.
And, not always, but commonly, these two words are hung upside down (like the gold character in the photo where the man is looking at couplets that are for sale).
Why are they upside down? Glad you asked. In Chinese when you say "your blessing is upside down" it sounds like you are saying "your blessing has arrived." It's a homophone thing.
(One couple has posted many kinds of factory made "spring couplets" into a flickr set. Worth a quick look if you want to see some of the things that were for sale this past Chinese New Year here in Taiwan.)
Another red thing that gets pasted on both doors and windows throughout Taiwan at this time of year are papers depicting gods. Perhaps he is (they are) the door god(s), but I don't know. On the main door of the home, usually five papers get pasted. Additional "god papers" are then pasted on to every window and every additional door--both inside and outside.
According to my Taiwanese friends, the Taiwanese believe that by hanging these papers over the doors and windows of their home they are protecting their home from evil spirits. The papers are part of the baibai table on New Year's Eve, and are pasted up after that.
Is it possible that pasting red papers on door frames once a year has ancient roots in the blood of the lamb and passover?? I don't know, maybe.
I do know, however, that God loves the Taiwanese and wants to bless them like they never been blessed before.