Chinese New Year Celebrations

Blending American and Oriental traditions to welcome in the Chinese New Year

If your plans this month include hosting a party to celebrate the Chinese New Year, here are some ideas for putting an American twist on your celebration to welcome in the Year of the Goat.

Decorations

Photo credit: Balloonacy Roseville Balloons
Photo credit: Balloonacy Roseville Balloons

Red and gold are predominant colors in the Chinese culture, so any New Year’s party you plan should include using these colors in all your decorations. Red paper lanterns are traditionally used to resemble the full moon in the sky, so you might consider hanging a few from the ceiling for decorations. To put a Western twist on this Asian tradition you might replace the lanterns (or supplement them) with red and gold candles around the room. You could also drape red and orange banners from the ceiling or wrap colored ribbons around house plants.

Firecrackers wrapped in red paper are another Chinese tradition for scaring away evil spirits with the loud explosions. You might not want to light firecrackers indoors, but draping strands of them across the room can make for interesting, festive decorations. Bowls of tangerines and oranges represent luck and wealth for the New Year, so a centerpiece of fruit would also be appropriate for your gathering.

Food and refreshments
Dumplings, orange beef, orange chicken and mandarin orange pancakes are among the more traditional Chinese dishes you might consider serving, along with Chinese beer, wine and tea. Since the colors red and orange play a big role in the New Year celebration, you might also consider carrot sticks and tomato slices for appetizers, pumpkin and strawberry pies for dessert and orange drinks. In conjunction with this year’s celebration you might also think about serving your guests crackers and sheepherder’s bread with goat cheese.

Fun and games
Each of the 12 animals reflected in the Chinese lunar calendar represent certain characteristics. For instance, people who are born in the Year of the Goat are said to be well-liked by groups of people and are honest, intimate and easily moved by the misfortunes of others. For a fun party activity, write the various characteristics of each Zodiac animal on a piece of paper and have each guest guess which sign they are.

Party favors
As guests depart, give them something to remember packaged in small Chinese food takeout boxes. You can even get customized fortune cookies with a personalized message like “Thank you for celebrating the Chinese New Year with the Smith family.”

Passing out money for luck is a common Chinese New Year’s tradition. Because it could be a little expensive to distribute money to everyone at your party, consider the alternative of putting gold-wrapped chocolate “coins” in small red bags.

The Chinese New Year is a great excuse to have a party even if you aren’t of Chinese descent. Similar to the American tradition, ringing in the Chinese New Year is all about celebrating family, making noise and looking forward to the fortunes of the year to come.

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