Skip to Main Content

Traditions in Color: Chinese New Year

Artistic Inspiration

Exploring the many cultures throughout the world inspires the designer in all of us. Recently, these explorations carried me to the many festivities and celebrations of Chinese New Year in Chinatown, Los Angeles. With its colorful urban setting, historic monuments and an explosion of fantastic sights, sounds and colors, the Year of the Snake entices the imagination.

Color plays an extremely important role in the Chinese culture, especially the yellowed-red that is prevalent in décor and fashion, as well as architecture and design. Red, noted everywhere during the Chinese New Year, represents good fortune and joy. Yellow or gold, representing good luck and neutrality, is typically considered the most beautiful of the Chinese colors and has a history centuries long in the Chinese culture. Green or jade is typically associated with harmony or nature. Examples of these colors and others were found on my journey through this part of town.

Red lanterns: Found everywhere, in the house and in the streets. Symbolizing brightness, harmony, happiness and good luck, it is supposed to warm the house, send away evil spirits and create an atmosphere of harmony.

Red couplets: Pasting red spring couplets has been an important part of the Chinese New Year's celebration since ancient times. The couplet is written on two strips of red paper and is composed of two poetic sentences that match and rhyme with each other to express hopes for the coming New Year. The red couplets, along with the New Year paintings on the door, serve as décor and as protective shields to ward off evil spirits.

Color Symbolism

Red envelope: The Chinese people have a tradition of giving money to children or unmarried children in red envelopes containing the money, also called good luck money.

Trending in fashion and décor are snake prints and patterns, and with 2013 being the Year of the Snake, this trend will continue to stay on runways and in show rooms throughout the year.

Color in Chinatown Architecture

Color on Parade

Color About Town

See more of the 2013 Chinese New Year parade and get a glimpse into the New Year festivities.

To learn more about Chinatown Los Angeles and the Chinese cultural traditions, visit