Happy Chinese New Year! January 28th marked the beginning of the Year of the Rooster. Our dear friend, Meng, hosts a fabulous Chinese New Year party every year. We were even more excited to attend our first Chinese New Year after learning we were born in the Year of the Rooster!
Unlike the Gregorian calendar (where December 31st is the last day of the year), the Chinese New Year changes based on the lunar calendar. Chinese New Year falls between January 21st and February 20th. It is also known as the Spring Festival and festivities typically last 15 days.
THE CHINESE ZODIAC SYSTEM
The Western zodiac system is dividend into twelve months, while the Chinese zodiac system is divided into twelve years. Every year in the Chinese calendar is represented by one of the twelve zodiac animals.
Source: China Highlights
2016 was the Year of the Monkey, while 2017 is the Year of the Rooster and 2018 is the Year of the Dog. The Chinese believe that individuals are influenced by the personality of the animal of their birth year. People born in 2017, 2005, 1993 or 1981 are expected to be honest, independent and ambitious. Confucius, Henry Ford, Justin Timberlake, Beyonce and Roger Federer were all born in a Year of the Rooster. The Lunar New Year is not just a Chinese celebration. The holiday is also celebrated in South Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, Indonesia and the Philippines.
HOW TO DECORATE?
Red is an auspicious color in Chinese culture and represents life and prosperity. Meng incorporated many shades of red in her decor. Decorations included adorable rooster decals, beautiful red envelopes and red Chinese lanterns. Red lanterns symbolize luck and prosperity. Meng incorporated the Fu sign on the door. We learned that the sign is upside down (“upside down” in Chinese sounds like “arrived”)—so by placing the 福 upside down, it means that luck or fortune has arrived. Meng’s friend, Rob, also placed a beautiful bouquet of red daisies and roses on the dining table.
WHAT TO WEAR?
Red is a lucky color that wards off bad luck and misfortune. Some guests were dressed head to toe in red while others sported just a splash of red with a shirt, scarf or shoes. Don’t forget the red lip and the red underwear!
WHAT TO EAT?
Meng’s cohost Melissa and her parents, Susan a yi and Steven shu shu, prepared many dishes for our wonderful feast. They are all AMAZING chefs, and we never tasted such delicious homemade Chinese food.
Certain foods are consumed during Chinese New Year because of their symbolic meanings.
- Fish is a must as the Chinese believe it brings prosperity and good luck. The fish is generally steamed, and served whole with the bones, head and tail intact. The head of the fish represents the beginning of the new year while the tail represents the end.
- Longevity noodles symbolize a wish for long life. They are longer than traditional noodles and can be served fried and served on a plate, or boiled and served in a bowl with broth.
- Oranges are believed to bring good luck and fortune. Meng displayed sliced oranges in the specialty cocktail.
- Rice cakes represent the next year and bring good luck.
Dumplings are an 1,800 year old Chinese tradition that consist of minced meat and finely chopped vegetables that are wrapped in dough and boiled, steamed, fried or baked. Popular fillings include pork, shrimp, chicken, beef or vegetables. Dumplings also symbolize wealth and also resemble old Chinese gold currency. Melissa’s parents showed some of the guests how to roll dumplings.
Guests also dined on shrimp and fish tempura, biscuits, pork chops, quail eggs, scallion pancakes, fried chicken, rice, shrimp salad and more. Someone even shaped the mashed potatoes into a beautiful rose- it was very TWINSPIRATIONAL.
The dining table looked beautiful. We recommend mixing and matching platters and using height display foods on a buffet table.
The desserts were delicious. Our favorite was Cynthia’s sponge cake roll with a strawberry and cream filling. We wanted to make rooster truffles, but our chocolate molds didn’t arrive on time. We decided to turn our bad luck into good fortune by bringing fortune cookies to the party. Other desserts included egg custard tarts, sweet rice balls and an orange upside down cake.
WHAT TO DRINK?
Meng prepared a delicious punch made with equal parts of fresh or canned lychee juice, chrysanthemum tea and passion fruit juice with a splash of pomegranate juice for color. We topped each glass with prosecco, but you could also mix with your favorite alcohol or sparkling water. Don’t forget the garnishes! We used orange peels and rosebuds. Guests also sipped on red and white wine throughout the evening.
Meng put an adult twist on the Chinese tradition of Red Envelopes. Typically, adults give children money in red envelopes during holidays or special occasions. Julia, Rob and Ramon instead wrote funny fortune for everyone and handed them out randomly. Fortunes included:
- You will marry Ryan Gosling
- You will move to the country and start a goat cheese farm
- A really cute puppy will save your life
Meng, thanks for hosting our first Chinese New Year celebration. Special thanks to Melissa and her wonderful parents for cooking so many wondering dishes and teaching many of the guests how to roll dumplings. Lastly thanks to all of the wonderful photographers for capturing the lovely evening – Meng, Mark, Christopher and Kanchana.
“Light the lanterns and usher in another great year with new hopes and aspirations. Happy Chinese New Year!” ―Anonymous
Ooohhh this is an old post. I got really confused for a minute coz I’m reading iton CNY 2020 and it’s the year of the rat. Haha. Hope the Rooster was good to you.
Happy New Year!! Well, this is my year because I am a rat! It looks like you guys had a great time celebrating:) Thanks for sharing some insight into Chinese culture. I found it really interesting!
Lunar New Year is always special! Looks like a great celebration!
What a fabulous party – and a really helpful guide to the details and symbols that make the Chinese New Year the special celebration it is. Very interesting! I learned quite a lot. Many thanks and a very happy new year to you!
Happy Lunar New Year to you. I was looking at the food photos and you had me drooling! That was one fantastic feast! I miss having scallion pancakes. It was my daily brunch when I lived in Taiwan. Scallion pancakes smothered with chili paste. Yum!!!
I love Chinese food and parties where a person cooks her own dinner from the family recipes. These foods you were served look delish!