This post was sponsored by Ling Ling, all opinions expressed in my post are my own.
Chinese New Year is coming up on February 5th this year. If you are thinking that it is a different day than last year, you’re right! Chinese New Year is based on the lunar calendar and falls on a different date between January 21st and February 20th each year. While China officially uses the Gregorian Calendar along with the rest of the world, the lunar calendar still plays a huge part in Chinese culture.
Some of the customs that are traditional to the Chinese New Year are fascinating and downright beautiful. I’ve always loved the idea of a fresh start with a new year. Having worked in education for 15+ years, my own personal new year almost always started with the school calendar. Now that I’m out of education, our traditional New Year (January 1st) feels closer to that fresh start. However, I’m usually still in the midst of my holiday celebrating and not always ready to change my ways on January 1st. I’ve always loved the Chinese New Year as a chance to make that fresh start since it is more of a stand-alone date than January 1st which is too close to Christmas for my liking.
One of the many legends that accompanies the Chinese New Year is that a monster named Nian would roam the earth on New Year’s Eve. Most folks would hide out at home, but one brave boy fought him off using firecrackers and that is how the tradition of shooting off firecrackers came to be. Firecrackers set off on New Year’s Day are meant to celebrate the boy’s survival. (Some also believe the firecrackers ward off bad luck.)
The Chinese New Year is traditionally a time when families gather together for a reunion meal on New Year’s Eve. The trek where grown children leave their jobs in the cities and return to the rural villages where most of their elder relatives live is called chunyun. Many families will eat traditional dumplings for New Year’s Eve dinner. (Some even eat them every day during the Spring Festival.)
Red is a very prominent color in the Chinese New Year. You will notice the traditional red envelope gifts, red firecrackers, and red lanterns hung everywhere. Red is believed to drive away bad luck and bring in good fortune. During the Chinese New Year, you will see red lanterns hung in doorways, in trees and even in office buildings. Some of the lanterns will have symbols on them, others may have pictures. It is common to see sparkly gold decoration on these lanterns.
We decided to celebrate the Chinese New Year at our house this year. We wanted to incorporate some of the elements like the family dinner with dumplings and the beautiful red lanterns. The dumplings were the easy part because Ling Ling has that covered with their amazing pot stickers. I had to hit a few stores in my area to find them in stock so maybe everyone else had the same idea. You can search where they are available in your area here. I grabbed a bag of the Chicken & Vegetable Potstickers and a bag of the Pork & Vegetable Potstickers. (I couldn’t find the Vegetable ones in stock anywhere but will be grabbing those too when I get a chance.) All varieties come with a signature dipping sauce that is deee-lish!!
I love that you can prepare Ling Ling Potstickers in whatever way works best for you. I steamed mine in a skillet and then finished them off with just a touch of oil to get that nice crispy browning. The directions to all three preparation methods are on the back of each package. My family had not had potstickers before and LOVED them. Part of what makes them so tasty is that they are made with clean and high-quality ingredients – the freshly sourced veggies and meats make the flavors pop.
The tradition of giving money to children in red envelopes (sometimes called red packets or pockets) is part of the New Year’s celebration as well. This particular tradition now includes giving red envelopes to employees as well as retirees. These envelopes are believed to also bring good luck.
Now, since we are hoping for a super lucky 2019 (2018 has some serious rough spots around here) we decided we wanted some of those red lanterns for luck. I decided to put a twist on them and create red “lantern” votive holders instead. This wound up being a super easy craft and can be done with kids of just about any age.
All you need is:
(I also used one of those foam “brushes” with the Modpodge but you can use whatever you have around.)
Cut the tissue paper into strips that will cover the outside of your votive holder lengthwise. Leave a little extra to wrap around the ends.
Cover the outside of the votive holder with a thin coat of Mod Podge.
Place the tissue paper strips all around the votive holder. I overlapped them a bit as I liked the way it created that “lantern look”.
Once the tissue has dried, apply another thin coat of Mod Podge over the outside. If you don’t wait until it has dried completely, you risk tearing the tissue paper.
Again, allow it to dry completely. Using the gold glitter glue pen, draw whatever Chinese symbols speak to you. I Googled quite a few before I decided on the ones I used. I also decided to draw them on with Sharpie before using the glue pen.
We then put LED votive candles in them and placed them on the table along with our meal. I would hesitate to put a flame near all of that Mod Podge and tissue paper, so fake candles are probably the safest bet.
Does your family usually celebrate the Chinese New Year? Will you this year?