Happy New Year!
Gong Hei Fat Choi!
It's The Year Of The Ox
The Lincolnshire Ox, by George Stubbs
For many years I have hosted a Chinese New Year party. Sometimes a big sprawling one for 50 people. But most times a sit-down dinner. I started doing this when I was in New York.
My ex was a Jewish guy who studied Kung Fu. He's a Master now with a school and training facility and the new wife. Because of his avocation, we had a few Chinese friends. In fact we were married in a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown. I wore a red taffeta strapless bubble dress (cocktail length). It was the 80's and this was quite cute then. And guess what, the look is back again now! Anyhoo, I learned to order at a Chinatown restaurant in Cantonese, and cook Cantonese style cuisine.
So I sent out and SOS to a few friends broaching the subject of a pot luck recession dinner party. We would provide a main course and beaucoup ambiance, and they would each bring a dish or beverage. I never got back such quick RSVPs in the enthusiastic affirmative!
I chose Friday January 30, not realizing I was having my dinner party right in the middle of Chinese New Year! I was so happy to discover this, so I'm making it a Chinese New Year dinner party. I'm making Chinese Braised Ox Tails.
I 've asked everyone to bring any style Asian dish, home made or take-out, and put a call out for someone to make Sake-tinis!
Our local Asian market in New Orleans
Two little girls in the check out line in New Orleans
There's nothing like this happening in New Orleans ha ha. They only shoot guns into the air on regular New Years Eve.
I'll be picking up some red envelopes to give to everyone as a party favor. They'll each get some token money inside the envelope to bring prosperity for the coming year. The superstition is to not give odd numbers lest more bad luck. A Satusma orange, is another good luck token.
All the restaurants really decorate. I did a couple of parties in restaurants in Chinatown, both as hostess, and also for clients. It's quite usual to have a banquet style dinner with several courses of extra special dishes in a restaurant. There are several days of celebrating the new year.
Chinatown restaurant New York City
China rings in the Lunar New Year in a big way. The festivities begin on the first full moon of the new year and last for 15 days. Chinese New Year is the single most important holiday in the country. It's a time for renewal, family gatherings, eating rich foods and paying respect to your ancestors and elders. Also, what you do and how you act during the period is crucial in determining how the rest of your year will go. So, eating the right foods is a must.
In Korea, the Lunar New Year celebration is barely a blip on the party radar while New Year is a month-long vacation and matchmaking fest among the Hmong. And in Thailand, New Year festivities include a splashy good time with a water sprinkling ritual. Also, because many countries interpret the lunar calendar differently or use the solar system, the dates of celebrations vary as well. The Indian holiday of Diwali falls in late October or early November, the Cambodians enter their Chaul Chnam Thmey in mid-April and modern Japan celebrates New Year, oddly enough, on January 1st. The Vietnamese celebrate at the same time as the Chinese.
Despite a number of differences, there's one common theme that takes center stage for all Asian New Year celebrations: family. No matter what the country, religion or race, New Year's Day is a time for family reunions, gatherings and reflection and reaffirming bonds.
So why don't you think about having your own Chinese New Year party? Get some take out and put it on your best dishes. Wear red. Pop some champagne, or stir up a pitcher of Saketinis. Beer is good too. It doesn't have to cost alot, and it might start a fun tradition to help banish the winter doldrums.
The Ox is a steady beloved creature, and perhaps it bodes well for all of us that this is the Year of The Ox.
China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644),
Hanging scroll, ink on paper,
National Palace Museum, Taipei
By Kawamura Bumpo (1779–1821)
Scroll painting,ink and color on paper
Pacific Asia Museum Collection