This Friday is Chinese New Year and marks the beginning of the spring festival! We always celebrate Chinese New Year in our household but we are especially excited this year because we are ushering in the Year of the Dog – the zodiac of both Claire and Ren!
When Paul and I decided to adopt from China, we also consciously chose to incorporate as much Chinese culture in our lives as we can. We think its important that the kids are familiar with the culture of their birth country and that we as a family appreciate and celebrate it in both small and little ways (language, food, art, festivals, clothing, travel, etc.). It’s been a learning curve over the years for Paul and me – and not without mis-steps, such as the one I may have made with these latest creations!) – but again, I think it’s important that we are at least putting in the effort. And hopefully our cultural blunders will be few and far between.
So back to Chinese New year … in addition to trying my best to cook a feast for the big night, I also decorate the house a bit, both inside and outside. I usually hang a red lantern on our front porch and occasionally I hang spring festival couplets (store bought from the T & T Supermarket) on our front door. Last year I took the additional step of putting together Chinese-themed planters.
This year, I wanted to step it up a notch by making a wreath for our front door. (I think our door cries out for something, and so I unwittingly have been amassing wreaths for every season and occasion.) While I was at it, I thought I’d also change up the planter design a bit from last year’s festival.
After perusing Pinterest for inspiration, I headed off to Michaels for supplies. There, I grabbed a grapevine wreath to use a base, gold ribbon, and some faux greenery, blossoms and greenery that I felt fit the occasion:
- pussy willows, which are a symbol of spring and in Chinese culture symbolize growth and the coming of prosperity, and
- magnolia branches with small whitish-pink* blossoms because they remind me of being in Shanghai in the spring and seeing magnolia trees in blossom everywhere.
*Note: I know that white flowers in Chinese culture are traditionally used for funerals so I do worry a bit about my usage of these here! I love the look of them and the travel memory they evoke for us but now I’m second-guessing myself about using white flowers on the wreath. I think I’ll swap these out next year for bright red and pink flowers, or orange Chinese lantern flowers.
I also planned to incorporate some red envelopes from Walmart.
I played around with a few arrangements before I finally settled on an asymmetrical look. I felt like the wreath needed something at the bottom, and I didn’t like the look of the gold bow I considered using, so I dug around in my storage area until I found a cute little Chinese ornament with the red tassel.
I quite like how the wreath turned out, but like I said above, I may switch out the whitish flowers for something else next year to avoid a potential cultural faux pas.
For continuity with the wreath, I used the same magnolia branches and pussy willows in my planters. I grounded them with my square boxwood wreaths (placed on top of the planter openings), which I use for that purpose in almost every season.
I had some thick faux bamboo stalks from the dollar store that I use for gardening stakes – and also for the limbo at school dances 🙂 – and decided to use them for a bit of height and weight in the planters. Each stalk was originally about five feet tall but I wanted more of them and an overall shorter arrangement, so I asked Paul to cut them into thirds. I tried to put the bamboo stalks into the planters as upright and straight as I could but I can tell from these photos that I wasn’t overly successful.
I think the planters are pretty cute and look fairly balanced (a little height, a nice base, some good filler). They could definitely use more color, though! I’m leaning towards orange Chinese lantern flowers instead of the magnolia branches, because that will coordinate with the color scheme I’ve planned for the tablescape. But I’ll add that to next year’s to-do list. For now, I’ve got to keep cleaning the house and planning the feast we’ll be enjoying on Friday! Wish me luck with all the preparations!