Gung Hay Fat Choy! That means Happy New Year! This year we celebrated Lunar (or Chinese) New Year. It’s the Year of the Ox, which is the second animal in the Lunar calendar, because in the mythology, the Ox would have won the race of the animals if it hadn’t been for him helping the rat, who then crossed the finish line first since he was carried the whole way.
Those born in the year of the Ox are said to be hardworking and honest. I’m a Snake, who are said to be humorous and sophisticated, and Eric is a Goat, which are strong and resilient. Each animal has a story and serves a different and unique purpose. You can learn more here.
Since it’s unlikely we’ll get to be in China on Lunar New Year, we decided to have a staycation that combined both travel and a celebration. I got these funky firecracker headbands, because this is a celebration and the most fireworks are actually set off in the world on that night.
We visited the Great Wall on our “trip” and ordered food from one of the most popular Chinese restaurants near us.
We ordered shrimp fried noodles, because long noodles signify a long and prosperous life. You aren’t supposed to cut them or bite them, otherwise you cut your life short. Shrimp also signify fortune and wealth.
On the right you have crab and pork bao. Dumplings are a staple on Chinese New Year and most people eat them for every meal. The Chinese words for dumplings literally translate to ‘exchange the midnight hour’, meaning you are trading new for old, and by eating dumplings, you are sending away the old and welcoming the new.
The green dumplings are vegetable and mushroom, and then we had a spicy cucumber salad. Spring is the time to plant new seeds, so vegetables are a very important part of Chinese New Year. Mushrooms are served, as they translate to a word that sounds similar to blessings or fortune. This is all very important in Chinese tradition…and very delicious for us.
We always try to have a fun drink to toast with, and this meal was no exception. I ordered a jasmine green tea topped with sweet cream and added honey boba. It was delicious, except for the boba, because it was like the consistency of gummy bears. Not my favorite, but it was interesting, for sure. Gānbēi!
Check out these adorable tea cups I got with ox on them. They have cool indentations for your fingers.
If you’re ever on vacation with me, chances are this is what you’ll be seeing a lot of. I love trying new foods and it’s one of my favorite parts of traveling. I’ll try almost anything once. It’s a wonderful way to learn about other cultures, I think. Plus, it’s totally delicious. I recommend asking locals where they like to eat and try out some of those places. Chances are, they are affordable and family-owned and sometimes really popular. These are the best places to eat, in my opinion.
While we stuffed our faces, we watched some videos about Chinese New Year and the Great Wall of China. I found that videos geared a bit more toward kids are more preferable for us if we’re learning things, because they’re more fun and interesting.
You knew there’d be dessert, right? Of course you did! Knowing we had a lot of food for our main meal, I opted for a smaller dessert of sweet taro buns. These are round, and round shapes signify family togetherness. Though we didn’t have our whole family around us, we had each other and the dog, which is our own little family.
For some reason, I’m a big fan of taro. It doesn’t have a lot of flavor, which can be good or bad, depending on your tastes. I happen to like the consistency and it was really appealing with the sweet bun. Eric added a bit of sweetness to his with some fig jam and we were both happy.
You also can’t beat dessert on the Great Wall, right? Did you know that it’s not even a full wall, but a bunch of pieces of walls that are sometimes connected? Did you also know that tourism is eroding the wall? If you didn’t, now you do. You’re welcome!
So, my table consisted of stuff I already had and a few things I bought to spruce it up. This cherry blossom branch with butterflies is actually a headband I made for my last in-person Harry Potter party where I was The Fat Lady who guards the Gryffindor Common Room.
I just set it in a short vase I had and hid it behind this gold fan, and added this amazing Mr. Men book I found where they all celebrated Chinese New Year. I already had the red tablecloth and I used my plain white plates, though I wished I had invested in some black ones specifically for this, but I’ve since discovered that white represents gold and brightness, so I guess I lucked my way into it working for this.
There’s this lucky red door backdrop I found that was massive and we ended up tucking it under the table for all the extra length, and also so it wouldn’t look all bunched up in the pictures. I really love it. I also thought this was the moment to have a special banner, so I splurged for the 2021 Ox banner (which was actually not that much. I just can’t use it again.)
Besides watching some videos about the Great Wall and the story of Chinese New Year, we also watched an amazing dragon dance and learned about all the traditional New Year foods from a lovely comedian. This was a little more spendy than our usual Destination Date Nights, but we ordered from a fancy-ish place and it was a special occasion. This topped out at around $165. We ended up with leftovers though.
If you also want to throw your own celebration or want to get started on next year’s, here’s a list of how you might want to enjoy a destination staycation of your own:
You can learn a lot about destinations by engaging in their celebrations. Even if you can’t be there, you can still do it at home and enjoy it without the crowds. This is especially good if you have kids and they aren’t super into trying new things, like foods. It’s also a lot cheaper than traveling during a festival, though there are usually local Chinatown celebrations that can give you a good look into what it would be like in China.
Have you ever celebrated Chinese New Year?
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