Are you getting ready for a New Year’s celebration?
I know what you’re thinking — your girl here has finally lost it. All that vegan food is affecting her brain! Her hair extensions are clearly too tight! Nope! I’m talking about the LUNAR NEW YEAR! It’s a thing, people.
Actually, you have probably heard this referred to as “Chinese New Year”, both are similar to one another and have become interchangeable over the years. The Lunar New Year is the celebration of the start of a new year in a lunar calendar in most Asian countries. Because it’s tied to the moon, it falls on a different date each year. In 2020, the Lunar New Year begins on January 25. So post up, people, and get ready for what the Chinese zodiac has deemed the Year of the Rat.
China is known for its epic New Years celebrations. Also called the Spring Festival, it’s the country’s most important holiday, and the parties last for 15 days. Here in Fort Worth, my mother is also known for her epic celebrations, so last year, she decided to throw the most amazing Chinese New Year celebration ever seen in the Fort.
With the big lunar date looming, I thought it was the perfect time to share with you how Carol & Jim ushered in last year’s Year of the Pig for their supper club.
I’ve posted party pics and tips below — I hope they inspire you to host your own Lunar New Year celebration and that you gain new insight into the cultural significance surrounding this magical and meaningful occasion. As they say in China, “Gong Xi Fa Cai”, wishing you great happiness and prosperity. And as I say in Fort Worth, “Pass the Champagne!” It’s gonna be our best year yet!
Chinese New Year is all about red. Red, red, red and more red. As long as it’s red, you’ve got a party. Of course, my mother is known for next-level entertaining (example), so she incorporated every single popular element into her décor scheme, including Chinese lanterns (to drive away bad luck), cut paper decorations (symbolizing luck and happiness) and “fu” characters hung upside-down (to ensure prosperity). “Fu”, which means good fortune, was inspired by a jar, so when it’s upside-down, it’s like good fortune is pouring down on your family. I say, bring it on!
My mother certainly knows how to do “extra” when it comes to tablescaping. Her motto has alwasy been “more the merrier”! So when it came to designing the perfect tabletop for this event, she scoured the entire metroplex and Amazon for everything she needed.
Red Envelopes, called hong boas, are also a Chinese New Year standard. Elders put money into these adorable little packets and give them to kids to pass on hope for a year of good fortune and blessings. My mom totally slip her friends envelopes of cash, but she also incorporated the hong boas into her festive party favors for guests to take home. Are these chocolate dipped fortune cookies not presh?
Lion Dance is a traditional dance among China and other Asian countries, that’s performed during New Year celebrations to bring good fortune and to ward off evil spirits. Did my mother’s party have a lion dance? You bet!
Fireworks and New Years are the perfect pairing across the globe, so my mother made them a part of her party, too. In China, it’s customary to set them off at midnight on New Year’s Day to scare off monsters and bad luck, and the person who launches the first firework of the New Year will experience good luck. Except this geriatric group couldn’t wait till midnight to do fireworks, so the minute the sun set, the sparks started flying. A special thanks to TNT Fireworks Supercenter for helping us almost blowup the hood!
Finding the Food
Food is the heart of Chinese New Year celebrations, especially what’s known as the “Reunion Dinner”, a big family dinner typically held on New Year’s Eve. My parents have been dining with their supper club since I was seven years old, so I think that pretty much makes them family.
Of course, any successful dinner party relies on both company and quality. My mother knew that she needed to bring on the absolute best caterer to make her party unforgettable, and for us, that meant asking the dynamic duo of Mary and Jarry Ho to share their Chinese culture with us.
Our family is straitjacket crazy for this couple, who are known for their catering as well as for owning Shinjuku Station, Cannon Chinese Kitchen and our favorite neighborhood place, Tokyo Café. It was a total clear and obvious choice that she would want none other than to work with the Hos and Tokyo Café’s Chef Kevin Martinez to set up in her catering kitchen and work their magic.
At Chinese New Year dinners, the menu is super important. Mary Ho describes it this way:
“Food is one thing that we take a lot of pride in — there’s a lot of thought put into all the dishes, and each has a symbolic meaning of luck, prosperity, happiness and auspiciousness.”
Here’s the menu that Mary, Jarry, and Chef Kevin created for mother’s party. As you can see, there were no pork dishes. Year of the pig, indeed!
Fortune, prosperity and family reunion
Wild Mushroom Dumplings pan seared and truffle oil
The dumpling shape resembles ancient Chinese money and signifies family reunion
Chicken & Shrimp Spring Rolls
The shape symbolizes gold bars
Abundance of food and wealth
Steamed Cod & Broccoli
The fish is usually cooked whole, leaving the head and tail attached to symbolize a good beginning and ending for the coming year.
Duck Consumme & Peking Duck
These dishes symbolize a good marriage between families. Mandarin ducks pick a mate for life and are considered loyal and devoted to their partner.
Success and Family Unity
Chinese desserts are typically not very sweet nor rich and usually comes with an unfamiliar texture because of the ingredients used. For our dinner party, the chef took a different spin on two of the traditional desserts.
5 Spice Bread Pudding in place of Nian Gao (New Year’s Cake)
Its name is a wish to be successful and higher each year, that each year will be better than the last.
And here’s my favorite: Family togetherness
Lychee Martini in place of Tangyuan (Sweet Rice Balls in a sweet soup)
Because of the fruit’s round shape, it symbolizes family togetherness. Saying: “Tuan Tuan Yuan Yuan” means “Happy Family Reunion!”
So, let’s get ready to raise a glass to 2020 – a new year so bright, so full of promise and prosperity that it’s definitely worth celebrating twice!
Now tell me, who doesn’t love a good Asian food dish?! In honor of the Lunar New Year I am giving away an Omakase dinner for FOUR people at Tokyo Cafe, a SIX course dinner with wine and sake pairings, value of $400. Enter at the Rafflecopter link below.