This Chinese New Year traditions post was sponsored by Ling Ling, all opinions expressed in my post are my own.
My Family’s Chinese New Year Traditions
As many of you know, my husband is Chinese and he’s been celebrating Chinese New Year since he was an infant.
However, I’m still learning about Chinese New Year traditions. And so are our kids! This year, Chinese New Year starts on February 5, 2019.
Chinese New Year Food
In my husband’s family, food plays a huge role in all family get-togethers. We have family dinners specifically to eat pastrami flown in from Katz’s Deli in NYC or crawfish shipped from New Orleans.
And Chinese New Year is no exception.
Our family celebrates on Chinese New Year’s Eve with a huge dinner.
My mother-in-law’s signature Chinese New Year dish is her Side Pork. Basically it’s like a thick slab of bacon, but more flavorful and juicy.
It’s quite rich and she only makes it once a year: Chinese New Year.
I’m a noodle girl, so I always take a heaping portion of the “long life” noodles. They are usually fried with meat and veggies and they make me feel happy!
And my kids can’t get enough of the dumplings! They like to watch their grandma (who they call “MarMar” in Cantonese) fill each wrapper with a mixture of meat and vegetables and carefully fold the dumplings.
Last year, my oldest got to help make a few dumplings and he was over the moon!
Ling Ling Chinese New Year Event in Seattle
Since Chinese New Year is such a big deal in our family, we try to take advantage of all the cool events we have here in Seattle, WA.
Last night, I was invited to attend the Ling Ling Chinese New Year event featuring Chef Katie Chin at Blue Ribbon Cooking Culinary Center in Seattle.
In case you don’t know, I’m not much of a cook. My husband does most of the cooking at our house and it’s delicious!
So, I was a bit intimidated going to this event with Seattle-area food bloggers!
But, Chef Katie Chin is so friendly and her stories are so relatable. She made it sound like anyone could make these easy recipes, and she was right!
Normally, I don’t put recipes on my blog. Actually, I think this may be the first. But, they are so easy that it would be a fun way to get kids involved in making food for Chinese New Year!
GET YOUR KIDS INVOLVED IN COOKING
The best way to get your kids to eat healthy is to have them help make healthy food.
I suggest taking them to your local Asian grocery store (Uwajimaya and HMart are always fun to explore!) and have your kids grab the ingredients you’ll need for your Chinese New Year feast.
And if you are feeling extra nice, let them wander the snack/candy aisles and pick out some treats to eat while they cook!
Ok, here are the easy Chinese New Year recipes your kids can help make:
CHINESE NEW YEAR SIDE DISH RECIPES
Chinese Long Beans with Cashews
1lb Chinese long beans, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2oz roasted cashews
1. Cook the long beans in boiling water until tender crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer the beans with a slotted spoon (or colander) to an ice bath until cool (about 2 minutes). Drain and set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the green beans and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, Hoisin sauce and oyster sauce and stir-fry for 30 seconds.
3. Dish out and garnish with roasted cashews.
Note: If you use green beans instead of long beans, blanch for 5 minutes instead of 2 minutes.
Spicy Garlicky Asian Eggplant
2 Asian eggplants, cut in half lengthwise then diagonally into 1/2 inch slices
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
2 tablespoons oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 hot red chili peppers, seeded and thinly slices
2 tablespoons water
1. Cover the eggplants with water, add the salt and stir to dissolve the salt. Soak the eggplants for 5 minutes then drain well.
2. In a small bowl, combine the oyster sauce, sugar and sesame oil. Set aside.
3. Heat the oil in a wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, chili peppers and reserved eggplant and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons water and continue stir-frying for 2 more minutes. Add the oyster sauce mixture and stir well to mix. Dish out and serve immediately with hot steaming rice.
Note: You will find Asian eggplant at many Asian markets. You can substitute regular eggplant, just cut it lengthwise into 4-6 strips before slicing.
10 Chinese New Year Traditions
1. Chinese Zodiac
One of the most iconic traditions during Chinese New Year is talking about the Chinese zodiacs.
There are 12 different Chinese zodiacs that cycle year to year. It’s easy to look online to see which animal represents they year in which you were born.
Did you know 2019 is the Year of the Pig? I’m extra excited because I was born in the Year of the Pig!
2. Clean Your House
It’s very important to kick off the new year with a clean house. So, families usually do major cleaning.
If you’ve been watching the cultural phenomenon Tidying up with Marie Kondo on Netflix, you’re probably pretty excited to purge and re-organize your entire house.
3. Get a Haircut
Make your hair appointments now because you’ll want to start off the new year with a fresh haircut.
There’s a superstition about not getting a haircut during the first month of the new year because it will bring bad luck to your uncles. It’s another one of those cases where Chinese phrases sound similar.
4. Buy a New Outfit + Shoes
My personal favorite Chinese New Year tradition is getting brand new clothes and shoes!
I mean, I’ll take any excuse but it’s a nice way to start off the new year on the right foot…inside a new pair of shoes!
And we always wear red on Chinese New Year’s Eve for extra luck!
5. Eat Chinese Food
One of the easiest Chinese New Year traditions to follow is to eat Chinese food! I just gave you a few super easy (and quick) Chinese recipes, but you’ll probably want to make a few more dishes for the full feast.
Ling Ling makes really tasty potstickers and spring rolls, which people eat in hopes for great wealth in the new year.
“Long life” noodles are really long and cooked uncut, to symbolize longevity.
You’ll also want to make sure to have a whole fish, as that represents an increase in prosperity (something we all could use!)
Usually there is also a vegetarian dish called “Buddha’s Delight” that is prepared without meat specifically to honor living things.
And oranges/mandarins with the leaves on symbolize friendship and good luck.
6. Chinese Lion Dancing
For the past few years, we’ve gone to our local Asian grocery store for their Lunar New Year celebrations specifically because they have Chinese Lion Dancing.
It’s really cute because students from a Kung Fu school perform and some are kids as young as 4 or 5 years old!
And this year, we’re heading to the Seattle Art Museum for their big celebration that also includes Chinese crafts and Chinese Lion Dancing.
We’re also attending at least one of the Chinese Lion Dancing demonstrations at Uwajimaya.
Check your local event calendar listings to find a Chinese Lion Dancing celebration near you.
7. Travel to See Family
Out of all the Chinese New Year traditions, the most important is to spend time with family and loved ones.
That means people travel back “home” from all over the world.
In fact, in China, it’s known as the “great migration” and it’s a crazy busy time to travel! And many businesses close so employees can travel to visit their family.
My family is fortunate because my in-laws live about 10 minutes away, so we don’t have to travel far.
But, I love the concept of building in vacation days specifically to visit family. Many of us book vacations throughout the year and don’t always leave days available to visit family.
This is such a smart way to remind us to go “home” every year.
8. Create Window Paper Art
We haven’t done this in the past, but I think we’re going to start this year. My 5 year old is pretty good with scissors and he’s all about the crafts these days!
Traditionally, people cut out auspicious words or patterns on red paper to carry peoples’ good wishes and then past them on windows.
The Fu character (meaning “good luck” and “fortune”) is unsurprisingly the most popular character to cut out!
9. Read Books
This isn’t necessarily a Chinese New Year tradition that all families do, but I like to read my kids books about how other families celebrate Chinese New Year.
Since I didn’t grow up celebrating this holiday, it’s a good way for me to learn alongside them why certain foods are eaten and new ways our family can celebrate.
One of our favorite Chinese New Year books for kids is Grace Lin’s Bringing in the New Year. She has a whole line of books that are very sweet and celebrate Chinese culture.
10. Lucky Money
My kids look forward to getting their lai see (money in red envelopes) every year.
This is actually a tradition that we do at my son’s preschool. But instead of real money, I put chocolate coins in the red envelopes and my son hands them out to his classmates.
It’s a fun way for him to share his Chinese culture with his friends!
Traditionally, you want to have the number 2. So, it’s common for people to put in $2 bills. Whatever you do, avoid the number 4, as it sounds similar to the word “death” and is very bad luck!
How Can Your Family Celebrate Chinese New Year this Year?
So much of Chinese culture is about the food.
The easiest way your family can celebrate Chinese New Year traditions is to cook up a bag of Ling Ling potstickers.
They make a great side dish or a quick lunch or dinner. Plus, they pack well in school lunches!
Since Chinese New Year lasts 15 days and we only spend the night prior at my in law’s house, the rest of the time, it’s up to us to cook the dumplings.
Being a busy mom with 2 little kids, I don’t have time to make dumplings from scratch. That’s why I love grabbing a bag of Ling Ling potstickers from our freezer!
My kids LOVE eating them and I love that they are getting protein and veggies in a fun way!