How to Throw a Chinese New Year Party
Happy Year of the Pig!
If you know us well, you know that we get excited about Lunar New Year (also referred to as Chinese New Year by some folks). While there are a lot of traditions, mythology and rituals involved with Lunar New Year based on the culture that is celebrating it, we have been having a lot of fun exploring the Chinese aspect of celebrating the Lunar New Year holiday.
The Mythology Behind Chinese New Year
According to myth and legend, there was a mythical beast called Nian that would eat villagers - children especially. One day, an old man wandered upon the town and upon hearing their plight, vowed to defend them against the beast. He put up red paper and lit off fireworks to scare off the beast - and it worked!
Interestingly enough, the color red is correlated in Chinese culture with the fire, good luck and fortune. If you grew up in an Asian household or family, you may be familiar with the red envelopes that are the most exciting thing you’ve ever seen - because they contain money. Usually given from relatives, the envelopes themselves are seen as being able to impart good luck to the point where some employers may give their employees bonuses in the red envelopes as a sign of good fortune and prosperity in the upcoming year.
We participated in Chinese New Year this year by also cleaning our home - this is said to empty bad luck from the home and invite in new luck after the new year starts. Our house was decluttered, tidied, wiped and vacuumed and dusted until every corner and nook was clean. The best part is that you’re not supposed to clean for a few days afterwards to allow good luck to settle into the home, so it gives you a couple days off with an excuse not to clean!
Lastly, we wanted to celebrate Chinese New Year with friends - going along with our hygge promise, we wanted to get together with people to ring in the new year and have a lot of fun, so we decided to throw a little party (because of COURSE we have to throw a party for it!)
Red is going to be the most important color for the party of course, so we decided on making that our themed color. We wanted to keep the concept relatively casual, relatable to our guests, but undeniably Asian at the same time.
We also created a Pinterest board (also of course) which you can check out here
It’s not a party without food, and we planned accordingly. Kee-ju had the idea that he wanted it to feel like everyone was at a Chinese restaurant, which he did through the choice of food and hurrying around the kitchen with pots of steaming water and woks and burners all going at the same time.
Since watching “Crazy Rich Asians” we have found a new love of dumplings. Despite being gluten free, we provided plenty of them for our guests. While we do have a traditional recipe for dumplings, if you’re not inclined to make them, store bought is just fine. We found some good options at the local Asian grocery store, but even the Ling-Ling potstickers from Target are of good quality.
Although not the traditional way to prepare dumplings, we end up feeding a lot of people at our parties - so instead of pan-frying them like we usually would, the dumplings are brushed with oil and go into an oven to crisp up.
Dumplings are best enjoyed with a dipping sauce of some sort. We usually make a lovely soy-sauce/ginger/sesame seed oil vinaigrette that was a traditional Korean dipping sauce for Kee-ju growing up.
CREAM CHEESE WONTONS
A mainstay of Chinese restaurants and buffets growing up, there’s something about a crispy wonton with a hot and fluffy center of cream cheese that really hits all the comfort food buttons. Sometimes with crab, sometimes with green onion, the most important part of the dish is the sweet chili dipping sauce.
Same as with the dumplings, we brush the wontons with oil and pop them in the oven to cook them. They emerge crisp, sizzling hot, and with no mess from deep frying.
Noodles are essential for an Asian party, and although we’ve served everything from pad thai to Singapore noodles, japchae has been the number one favorite at our parties.
Japchae is a Korean dish that consists of clear glass noodles made from sweet potatoes that are boiled and then tossed in sesame seed oil and soy sauce. Blanched spinach, carrots, scrambled egg shreds and shiitake mushrooms are sauteed and added to the noodles to create a well rounded and flavorful noodle dish.
It’s always a crowd favorite and we get a lot of compliments on it, so we always make it - and without fail it always disappears quickly.
Although we could have potentially done some sort of Chinese beverage, we decided to go with wine and champagne. I feel that at a party, most people are fine with wine (sparkling, red or white) and it doesn’t feel too forced or overdone. After all, you want the party to have a theme but not feel too theme-y - it feels a bit cheesy otherwise.
Per tradition with our motto of using natural decor, we decided on two elements: oranges and red mums.
Oranges are a popular symbol of good luck - due to the resemblance of the words for good luck and orange (it’s not uncommon in Chinese culture for associations to be made between words over time to become almost synonymous). Fruit as well is a symbol of abundance, and is considered a generous gift to give during the occasion.
It’s also very Asian given that traditionally there wasn’t usually a dessert served after the meal - instead tea and slices of fruit was served. Mandarin oranges would fit perfectly into that.
While the most prized flowers are azalea blooms, peonies and water lilies, we are fresh out of those at the moment so these red mums are our floral of choice - being chrysanthemums they are of Asian origin, and the red blooms fit into the color scheme we’re going for.
Well, I hope that gave you some ideas on how to throw a Lunar New Year’s party and that you’re exciting about ringing in the Year of the Pig! Wishing you good luck and fortune for you and your family this year!