The Chinese New Year (year 4707 on the Chinese calendar) begins on January 26, so why not throw a bash to celebrate “The Year of the Ox?” Who cares if you’re not Chinese or an ox? Winter is lasting way too long and we need a party up in here!
While the festivities surrounding Chinese New Year kick off on Monday (the first new moon of the year), they last for 15 days—so you’ve got a bit of time to pull it together. Here’s a rundown of all the décor must-dos, culinary traditions, go-to music and important Chinese customs so you can host the most smashing “Happy 4707 Party” ever!The Invites: Get your friends into the spirit from the start. Buy red or white paper fans and write out the soiree details directly on the then using a gold or black marker—Be sure to add: “Gung Hay Fat Choy!” (“Happy New Year!”).
See Red: Red is considered the luckiest color in Chinese tradition and believed to scare off evil spirits. Scout for scarlet-hued decorations at your local Chinatown, or online Chinese purveyors like Pearl River, Oriental Trading and Plum Party. Hang red streamers and flyers on your front door. Inside, let the red flow with fun lanterns and place mini ox figurines around to celebrate anyone born in the year of the ox. Group mandarins or tangerines in a bowl, they’re a sign of prosperity—if you can find ones with the leaf or branch still attached, it’s extra good luck!
The Soundtrack: Hit up iTunes for songs by Chinese pop stars like Jay Chou and Jin (he sings in English)—not only will you get major street cred, but you’ll turn your friends on to something new! More a more chill soundtrack during dinner, Xiao-Peng Jiang & The Chinese Orchestra of Shanghai Conservatory. They do a great, traditional album of Chinese New Year music.
Cocktails, Drinks and Nibbles: For libations, dry and fruity white wines like Riesling and Albariño go swimmingly with Asian food, as does light-bodied beer. If you’re feeling super-ambitious, try this easy and effervescent ginger-champagne cocktail .
For noshing food, an Asian-style trail mix is the perfect cocktail hour snack—combine equal parts smoked almonds, wasabi peas and dried cranberries.
Don’t be afraid to order Chinese take-out—it’s a recession, the food’s affordable and you get a lot of it. Put your special twist on it by serving everything family style: The Chinese New Year celebration is a lot like Thanksgiving—lots of family, friends and food! According to Chinese tradition, certain foods symbolize happiness and prosperity, so when you’re looking at the take-out menu, be sure to order chicken and shrimp dishes. Dumplings symbolize wealth, so say yes to wonton soup; oranges signify wealth and good fortune, so think sesame beef with oranges; and a great side dish is veggie or chicken lo mein, which represents longevity.
If you’re down for cooking, try the traditional Chinese Roasted Chicken. This is a super easy-to-execute recipe. Food writer Grace Young says Chinese families put out whole chickens before the New Year to appease the “kitchen god” and ensure a prosperous new year. Listen to Grace talk about the kitchen god—and why you shouldn’t mess with him.
The Swag: The Chinese tradition says that each departing guest gets a red envelope with money in it to take home. (These traditional ones are only a quarter each.) The amount of money is totally up to you—or for a fun twist, buy scratch-off lottery tickets to tuck inside!