Chinese New Year Party

  • 01 of 07

    Organizing a Chinese New Year Party Is Fun!

    How to Have a Chinese New Year Party
    Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

    Putting together a Chinese New Year party is fun, cultural, and unique — a great excuse to get friends together in January or February for something educational and enjoyable!

    Nearly everyone has heard of Chinese New Year or seen parades in big cities, but not many Westerners are sure of how to best celebrate at home.

    If you won’t be going to one of the many Chinese New year celebrations around the world, consider organizing your own little gathering to observe the lunar new year and usher in some good fortune! Even in the aftermath of December holidays, friends will appreciate the unique opportunity to get together and learn something new.

    Before planning a Chinese New Year party, you should probably know a little about Chinese New Year and when it is this year.

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  • 02 of 07

    Invitations for Chinese New Year

    Chinese New Year Lion
    Paul / Creative Commons

    If your Chinese New Year party is formal enough to merit mailed invitations, purchase or make some authentic ones and mail them in decorated envelopes. For Americans, the USPS’ Lunar New Year stamps will add a nice touch (find them at https://store.usps.com/).

    Whether you invite guests via snail mail or social media, you may want to include some basic suggestions and instructions in the invitation; your gathering could be the first Chinese New Year party for many attendees. Spruce up the Meetup email or Facebook invite with links to informative articles and photos of Chinese New Year traditions such as the lion dance. Use the space to explain the significance and objective of celebrating Chinese New Year: out with the old and in with as much good fortune as possible!

    Warn your guests about wearing white or black — traditional mourning colors. Gold is good, but red is the best color for Chinese New Year.

    You can suggest that guests bring gifts in red envelopes — cash or gift cards in small amounts are ideal — along with candies to exchange. Known as hong bao, these are especially important if any children will be attending.

    If guests ask about bringing food, suggest they bring some sort of traditional Chinese New Year food or dessert.

    You can make the invitation even more enticing with a mention of gifts and fireworks after the party!

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  • 03 of 07

    What to Wear for Chinese New Year

    What to Wear on Chinese New Year
    Lane Oatey / Blue Jean Images / Getty Images

    Buying a new outfit or wearing one that hasn’t been previously worn is best for Chinese New Year. If possible, avoid wearing black or white clothing on Chinese New Year; both are colors traditionally worn for mourning. Gray, ashen, and charcoal colors also fall into this category. Instead, opt for red, gold, or vibrant colors.

    If you don't have a suitable outfit, you can still give a nod to tradition by wearing a red accessory; red scarves are a popular choice.

    Wearing red has nothing to do with China’s current political inclinations. The custom dates back far longer. Mythology maintains Nian, the beast that comes out on Chinese New Year to attack people, is afraid of the color red and loud noises — that’s why firecrackers are thrown and symbols are crashed during celebrations. Another theory suggests it’s because the word for red (hóng) sounds similar to one of the words used for prosperous (h?ng).

    Any cutting done during Chinese New Year is viewed as unlucky. You should trim your nails, shave, and get a haircut before the holiday if needed.

    Washing your hair on the lunar new year is considered risky as you could wash away new good luck.

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  • 04 of 07

    Food for Chinese New Year

    Chinese New Year Food
    Carl Court / Getty Images

    You have three options for organizing your Chinese New Year food: prepare everything yourself, get what you can from Asian supermarkets, or opt to let a Chinese restaurant prepare everything. If you decide to let a restaurant take care of food, put your order in days in advance: restaurants in places with large Chinese populations will be busy!

    Don’t just randomly choose food. Even down to the smallest snacks, most of the food served on Chinese New Year is symbolic and has centuries of tradition behind it:

    • Begin with a clear soup. The classic, familiar wonton soup is an easy choice.
    • Stuffed dumplings (jiaotzi) are a must. If you’re not up to the task of folding them from scratch, get a big box from a restaurant for guests to share.
    • Noodles should be served and eaten uncut. The length represents long life.
    • A fish dish should be present and shouldn’t be finished completely. Choose a whole fish with head and tail still on; steamed is ideal. The fish represents abundance and prosperity.
    • Spring rolls represent wealth.
    • The word for lettuce in Cantonese sounds like rising fortune, so lettuce wraps are a good, healthy choice.
    • Mandarin oranges are popular for many reasons.

    See a little about Chinese table manners.

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  • 05 of 07

    Decorating for Chinese New Year

    Chinese New Year Decorations
    ViewStock / Getty Images

    Clean the house thoroughly and remove any clutter. You want to make as much room for incoming luck as possible.

    According to superstition, you don’t want to inadvertently sweep or clean away new luck as it comes in during the festival; avoid cleaning during the 15 days of Chinese New Year. Unhealthy plants should be trimmed or removed. All pruning, indoors and out, should be done before the festival begins.

    Purchase or make red Chinese lanterns to hang both inside and outside; you can also use a lantern as the centerpiece of the table.

    Although party stores will have plenty of Chinese New Year decorations available for sale, you can print your own calligraphy to place strategically around the house. Choose lucky characters such as those for “fortune,” “luck,” and “spring.” Characters can be printed out on heavy-stock paper and then hung around the house. Symbols can be cut to card size, glued to sticks, and then placed in potted plants.

    Keep in mind the Chinese zodiac sign for the year (e.g., Year of the Goat, Year of the Monkey, etc) and give homage with a paper representation of the animal somewhere.

    Fresh flowers are important, but don’t choose white flowers — they are given at funerals.

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  • 06 of 07

    Exchanging Chinese New Year Gifts

    Chinese New Year Hong Bao
    XiXinXing / Getty Images

    Guests may not be in too big of a hurry to buy and exchange gifts again in the wake of Christmas, but etiquette dictates that they bring something small to the party. You can reciprocate with witty door gifts or personalized items for each friend. Gifts can be small trinkets, red envelopes with small amounts of money inside (hong bao), candies, or even healthy snacks.

    Ideally, each gift should be catered to each guest and represent some wish you have for their health or prosperity in the new lunar year. For this reason, thoughtfulness is more important than the monetary value of the gift.

    Chinese New Year gift ideas are usually simple but thoughtful:

    • Medicinal tea to help your friend through flu season
    • A small piggy bank already primed with a few coins
    • Candles with their favorite scent or aromatherapy benefits
    • Fruit (mandarin oranges are best / pears are worst)
    • Printed photos of the two of you in a favorite memory you share
    • If this is your friend’s ben ming nian (zodiac birth year), give them something red to wear or a piece of jade jewelry. They need help with their feng shui to avoid bad fortune until the next lunar new year.

    Although one of the focuses of Chinese New Year is good health, there are usually plenty of drinks to go around. Small “airplane” bottles of the guests’ favorite adult beverages are an easy gift option.

    If at a total loss for what to give, you can’t go wrong with baked goods or sweets.

    Tradition dictates you shouldn’t give umbrellas, handkerchiefs, watches, white flowers, or anything sharp. If a friend has their own umbrella or handkerchief, they won’t need yours one day! Watches indicate that time is running out, and sharp objects represent the cutting of ties.

    Gifts that relate to the number "4" in some way should not be given. The Chinese word for four sounds close to the word for death.

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  • 07 of 07

    Chinese New Year Games and Entertainment

    Chinese New Year Games
    Kevin Frayer / Getty Images

    Although enjoying food, drinks, and good company is great, you may want to incorporate some Chinese New Year entertainment. Games involving skills with chopsticks are easy to set up. With some uncooked rice, beans, and other hard-to-pick-up items and a timer, you can come up with all kinds of creative games that are good for laughs.

    Tip: The games shouldn’t involve guests passing items to each other using the chopsticks. Passing bones with chopsticks is a funeral rite in Asia.

    • Calligraphy contests are an easy way to have some cultural fun. Have supplies on hand for each guest to try then judge the results and offer small prizes.
    • Origami, although usually associated with Japanese culture, is another cultural way to keep everyone occupied. The Chinese do have a legacy of paper-folding art known as zhezhi.
    • Consider screening a film or documentary portraying Chinese culture and have some good traditional music on hand.

    No Chinese New Year is complete without fireworks! Although your neighbors may or may not be happy about big bangs in January or February, you can probably get away with handing out sparklers or some other colorful choice to help keep that pesky Nian at bay.

    Know how to greet everyone by saying happy new year in Chinese!