I celebrate my Asian culture nearly every day as I go to work and school. Speaking the native language, cooking with my family and other cultural traditions keep me grounded and connected to my Chinese ancestry. In many ways, the Chinese culture is unlike any other in the world. We use specific symbols and actions to convey an event, for example. In fact, lanterns hold a special place in our culture for a variety of reasons. Take a look at the importance of these paper creations in our homes.
My favorite paper lamps are the red-colored types. This color is often seen around the Chinese New Year. It's definitely a festive color, but it also means much more to my culture. In fact, a red lantern indicates good fortune. As we move into a new year, families decorate their homes with red lamps in order to bless the household with good luck. It's not unusual to see a dozen or more red lamps within one house alone.
A more unique paper lamp concept is animal designs. My family might have several animals hung up as paper lamps at Chinese New Year. As the New Year is rung in, family members trade old animal favorites for new ones. This symbolic gesture means that you're renewing yourself for the New Year. It's time to move forward and begin the year as a new person.
My parents were proud to decorate the house with many paper lamps because it was a way of indicating success. In the past, only Chinese emperors and other noble people could afford such luxuries. If you had even one lantern, your family was perceived to be successful. Hanging the paper lamps usually occurred at the New Year, but they could also be pulled out for special occasions, such as birthdays.
My family also uses paper lamps for other purposes, such as showing our appreciation for our gods. Regardless of the specific religion, the Chinese culture usually has several gods that are worshiped. These gods are assumed to be in the heavens. By raising a paper lamp to the heavens, I'm celebrating the gods with humility and respect.
If you were thinking of using paper lamps for one of your parties, look for an authentic Chinese store. My town has a basic Chinatown section where many vendors sell culturally significant items, including delicate paper items. When I have a beautifully adorned paper lamp in my house, I'm reminded of my heritage and the importance of family.
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