Host Your Own Chinese New Year Party

Chinese New Year lands on February 14...Valentine's Day...Arizona Statehood Day. :) It will be the year of the Tiger.

While my family and my husband's family are not exactly huge celebrators of Chinese New Year, we still acknowledge it with the bare minimums of tradition. When I was younger (read: not married), I received red envelopes of money from my parents. As for food, we usually ate at my church (a Chinese church), where lots of Asian mothers would bring their delicacies: dumplings, tea eggs, sesame balls, radish cake, rice cake, almond cookies, etc. All very delicious...my mouth is watering already.

Anyway, so this year, my husband is teaching a Chinese-American unit in his English classes (they're reading Dragonwings by Lawrence Yep) and his students have expertly persuaded him to have a Chinese New Year party. We started planning one last night and I thought you might benefit from the information. We're trying to keep things simple, since a class period is only 45-50 minutes long.

The Food
* Potstickers (recipe here) - potstickers are symbolic of gold because their shape is very similar to dubloons.
* Nian-gao or Sticky Cake (recipe here) - "nian gao" is a homonym for "higher year," so eating this symbolizes raising oneself higher in each coming year.
* Almond cookies (recipe here) - almond cookies look like Chinese money and they are also circular/round in shape, which is important during Chinese New Year.

The Activity
* Make paper lanterns (directions here) - these are obviously the most simple of lanterns, but during Chinese New Year, paper lanterns (with rice paper and wooden supports) are hung ALL OVER the town. They're lit at night and it is beautiful.

The Favors
* Pass out red envelopes (like these) - put money in them and pass them out. It's important to keep money in even numbers, as they are good luck. An odd number is usually reserved for a funeral. Red envelopes of money are for the host to spread goodwill and good fortune to his guests and family.
We plan to put a few coins and a couple of free-homework passes for the students. :)

Enjoy! And have a happy Chinese New Year! (in Chinese, it's pronounced "shing-nien quai-luh")

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