Some of the best parties expose attendees to cultural concepts or traditions. Few are as meaningful or as festive as the Chinese Lunar New Year. This is your opportunity to throw a truly memorable event. To help, we’ve outlined a few essential Chinese New Year party ideas below:
“Lunar New Year Card” by Pearl Liu is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0
What Is Chinese Lunar New Year?
Marking the start of the new year based on the traditional Chinese calendar, Chinese Lunar New Year also highlights the coming of a new season — hence the common moniker ‘Spring Festival’ throughout mainland China.
As one of the nation’s most important annual holidays, this event features its fair share of customs, which vary from one region to the next. In general, however, families gather for a reunion dinner on the eve of the event before proceeding to go all out for the big day.
If you’d like to get in on the festivities for Chinese New Year, you’ll want to plan ahead to ensure that you respect the culture’s most cherished traditions. From Chinese New Year party games to cherished foods and decorations, big gestures and small details alike can make a difference.
Clean Your House Before the Party
Cleaning is key before any party, but it takes on another element of importance when celebrating Chinese New Year. The goal? To sweep away not only dust and grime, but also all bad fortune while preparing for the new year. Treat this much like you would spring cleaning; every nook and cranny should be thoroughly scoured to usher in a year of good fortune.
Have Guests Remove Shoes
In China, as in many Asian countries, guests traditionally remove their shoes when entering homes. Hosts often provide slippers to enhance comfort.
If shoe removal isn’t already standard in your home, make an exception for the sake of Chinese New Year. If nothing else, this will reduce your post-party cleaning obligations.
Decorate With Red
As the official color of the Chinese New Year, red brightens decor, outfits, and even traditional foods. According to Chinese legend, this color-based tradition began with a ferocious beast known as Nian, who terrorized villagers as the new year approached. Nian was famously afraid of the color red, however. Once he was defeated, the color remained prominent due to its association with good luck.
As you plan your Chinese New Year party decorations, don’t hesitate to go all-out with the color red. It can be featured in hanging lanterns and paper cutouts. The brighter and bolder your party’s decor, the better.
Accent With Gold
Red is by no means the only color worth incorporating in your Chinese New Year party. Gold, although not as prominent, also plays a key role in this special occasion. It represents the wealth that event attendees hope to enjoy in the new year. It can be infused into your celebration via beautiful foil and place settings or with small details on predominantly red decorations.
Arrange Fresh Flowers: Lilies & African Violets
The right flowers can bring an element of natural beauty to your party while also honoring Chinese traditions. White flowers, however, should be avoided, as they are associated with funerals. Instead, opt for lilies in bright colors or even African violets. If you can’t get real flowers (or even if you can), create cardboard cutouts of festive bouquets to display at your party!
Highlight Rat Decor
It’s not every day you actively aspire to have rats integrated into your party. With the Chinese New Year, however, rats symbolize a crucial component of the zodiac. As the first in a twelve-year cycle of animals, the rat symbolizes intelligence and success.
With the Year of the Rat approaching, this small critter should be incorporated extensively into your decor. From rat figurines to cardboard cutouts, a variety of options allow you to highlight this oft-forgotten animal that will prove so important in the year to come.
Even those who know next to nothing about the Chinese New Year recognize the dragon dance, which is regularly performed during parades and at other celebrations. The vibrant dragons featured in these dances can also be highlighted at your Chinese New Year theme party. Options include dragon figurines, garlands hung along tables and ceilings, or even giant dragon cardboard cutouts.
Organize A Gift Exchange
Generosity is huge during Chinese New Year, as represented by the iconic red envelopes full of money. Traditionally exchanged during this important holiday, these envelopes are typically given to children. If you’re not comfortable incorporating this specific tradition into your party, don’t hesitate to find other ways to exchange gifts. Red goody bags, for example, make an excellent Chinese New Year party favor — particularly if filled with small gifts that highlight traditional symbols or customs.
Set a Festive Ambience
Ambience is everything during Chinese New Year. The right visuals, sounds, and smells can make all the difference. To begin, add traditional Chinese New Year music to your playlist. The appropriate songs can be found in CD compilations or even via Spotify or YouTube. As your guests enjoy this festive music, they can sip on red cocktails while taking in the impeccably decorated environment. At dinner, set the mood with elegant place settings featuring chopsticks.
Serve Traditional Food
Ideally, your Chinese New Year party spread will include a variety of traditional foods from various regions throughout China. For snacks, stick with such favorites as tangerines and fortune cookies. Consider also serving a sit-down meal incorporating dumplings, noodles, wonton soup, spring rolls, or lettuce wraps.
Fish is a critical component of a traditional Chinese New Year party, as it symbolizes the blessing of wealth in the upcoming year. To prolong this surplus, plan to eat half of the fish on the day of the party — and save the other half for later. After the fish has been broiled, red pepper can be added to provide a hint of color and further symbolize good luck.
Believed to drive away evil, firework displays are highly anticipated throughout China. If significant displays are not customary in your region, you may still be able to feature fireworks on a smaller scale. This will largely depend on local laws and the availability of necessary products. Find a safe, open space to use firecrackers to frighten Nian and usher in the new year.
Offer Other Memorable Games and Activities
Honor Chinese traditions with carefully selected games. These can be tailored for both kids and adults. Examples include:
- Kids can spin Chinese wheels of fortune to receive special gifts.
- Chopstick games — as long as they do not involve guests passing items between one another while using chopsticks.
- Calligraphy or origami stations in which guests can create beautiful works of art to display at home.
- Movies specifically about the Chinese New Year or otherwise featuring key elements of Chinese culture.
- Photo areas featuring cardboard cutouts of rats, dragons, citrus fruits, or lucky flowers.
What to Avoid
Certain images and elements should be avoided at all costs to reduce the risk of unintentionally causing offense. Many seemingly ordinary objects are widely believed to deliver bad luck. These include:
- White Flowers
Anything relating to the number ‘4’ should also be avoided. This number sounds almost exactly like the Chinese word for death, so it is notoriously unlucky.
Enjoy the Chinese New Year
Your top goals for throwing the ultimate Chinese New Year party: paying homage to wonderful customs and traditions while also hosting a fun event. With a little research and advance planning, you can easily accomplish both objectives. Your guests will appreciate your attention to detail — and your enthusiasm for a beloved Chinese holiday.
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