Disclaimer: I received products from Oriental Trading Company for free to create this post. All thoughts and opinions below are my own.
It’s almost Chinese New Year! The Year of the Dog starts on February 16th, but we celebrate the new year for weeks in our house, pulling out the decorations with all the hearts and cupids for February.
Chinese New Year is one of the best holidays for including kids in the celebration because most of the traditions are perfect for little learners. Dim Sum, the bite sized Chinese dumplings, are a great way to introduce new foods without being overwhelmed. The fact that the years are animals makes them tangible and kids love learning about what their animal says about their personality. And the bright red and gold decorations are exotic, friendly, and elegant all at the same time.
To kick off our celebratory season, we had a little afternoon tea themed around Chinese New Year with the help of Oriental Trading Company. I staged it on our long coffee table in the front room and the kids were able to explore all of the goodies easily.
To create a festive background for our tea while also keeping in mind that our three kids are six and under, I used a red plastic tablecloth from Oriental Trading Company and lined the edges with gold paper tape. This is my favorite way to theme plain tablecloths because it’s so easy but makes a huge impact on the table.
We got a pack of Chinese zodiac placemats from Oriental Trading Company, but I want to save most of them for the sit down dinners we’ll have over the holiday weekend in a couple of weeks, so I just took a couple out and edged the table with them because the kids love to read all the little blurbs. I was right – it was the first thing they were drawn to!
The fun thing about doing a Chinese themed afternoon tea is that it gave me an excuse to pull out our Chinese tea set (available at any Asian grocery store near you) but the rest of our dishes were our classic tea pieces that we use all the time, with the exception of the paper plates and Chinese New Year napkins.
This tiered tray, however, was a gift for my birthday and I love how the little pieces of dim sum looked on it. Side note – we don’t have a dim sum restaurant in our area that’s safe for Eva so we rely on the Asian-themed freezer foods from Trader Joe’s to let her explore her Chinese roots. I have to say, they’re pretty yummy! Everything edible on the table is from there.
I also picked up some gift bags and party favors for the holiday. The kids aren’t allowed to open theirs yet but I set them out for decoration because the bags we got from Oriental Trading Company are so pretty. They’re filled with chopsticks, a sticker activity book, red envelopes with money tucked inside, a wrapped book for each child (not pictured), and a little fortune cookie eraser.
Another decoration piece that I brought out for the tea is the Chinese dragon piñata we’ll break open on the actual holiday. He’s filled with plastic gold coins and red candy and he’s so darn pretty I’m going to be really sad when the kids smash him up! The kids, on the other hand, adore going savage on a good piñata and it’s definitely making them count down the days until the Year of the Dog.
Even if you aren’t Chinese and/or you don’t usually celebrate Chinese New Year in your home, please don’t be intimidated by incorporating a new holiday! There’s still lots of time to order a few inexpensive goodies online and this whole production I’ve presented took me about 30 minutes to set up, including cooking time for the freezer food, so it was a super easy celebration.
Here are a few little notes to help you get a handle on the holiday:
/// Red is a lucky color in Chinese culture and the gold decorations symbolize prosperity. Oranges, clementines, peaches, and long noodles are also lucky items to put on the table.
/// There are 12 Chinese zodiac animals. We’re currently in the Year of the Rooster, about to head into the Year of the Dog. People born in the Year of the Dog are loyal and friendly.
/// Most Chinese tea can get bitter quickly if you steep it too long. If you’re just introducing your kids to the holiday using a tea, I’d recommend using Jasmine tea or a white tea that doesn’t steep very long. Herbal ginger tea is another good one that fits with the holiday and easy to “help” with milk and sugar for kids that aren’t huge tea hounds.
/// Fireworks, firecrackers, and dancers in dragon or lion costumes are all used to scare away the bad luck from showing up on the new year. Although the traditional dances can seem a little loud and jarring to small ears if they aren’t used to them, they’re really fun to watch. Check out videos on You Tube if you don’t have a celebration happening near you for the holiday.
I hope you have a happy new year! Gung Hay Fat Choy!!!