Going into our celebration, I was wishing for a nice Chinese dragon decoration for our table, so I went on Etsy in search of a wooden dragon toy, but all I could find were European style dragons (except this Chinese dragon puzzle, which I favorited, but failed to order in time). Then I remembered that Z had a bunch of these three-dimensional puzzle dragons that came in a Dragonology book. Their parts and pieces were piled up in a peanut tub, where I had been throwing them whenever I found them on their bedroom floor. We were able to (mostly) reassemble five of them and set them, along with a Chinese kaleidoscope that I've had my whole life, on the nature table on a piece of red Chinese silk (which has yet to be transformed into a sexy dress):
It's a bit of a multi-cultural dragon display, with a Chinese dragon, a Tibetan dragon and three dragons of European descent.
My friends Raina (of the great blog, Mamacita Spins the Globe) and Tina and their hubbies and children joined us just as I was deep in the making of fortune cookies (or, as many of them turned out, particularly the ones that stuck irretrievably to the pan, unfortunate cookies):
They helped me make the eggrolls (the making and eating of which being my prime motive and motivator in our annual Chinese New Year celebrations); in fact, they did most of the work--chopping and sauteing veggies and rolling them up. All I had to do was fry, which worked out great for me since I'm terrible at that kind of detail-oriented cooking (note my ragged fortune cookies).
I also made my world-famous sweet & sour sauce, a big vat of rice and some stir-fried broccoli. Tina brought three types of tofu, cooked two different ways and some yummy sesame noodles.
After dinner the kids made dragon puppets (here's E with his the next morning, in better light):
And then we dug into our fortune cookies and the Nian Gao cake (made with sweet rice flour and adzuki beans) that Raina brought:
Throughout the evening we listened to our Putumayo Asian Dreamland CD (which is more lullaby than party music, but it made a quiet, non-intrusive background to a lot of noisy kids) on repeat, and before the kids went to bed we read The Story about Ping.
To keep the celebration going (I think the actual Chinese New Year day is today, and the official change of year is
November edited: oops, I mean February 4), we've been trying out our Chinese characters on the Buddha Board (I had brought out board and printed out some Chinese character cards before the party, but no one noticed these over on a side table; I have since moved it to a more prominent location). Last night, we read Daisy Comes Home and we'll be reading some more Chinese-themed story books that I picked up at the library (I can't remember where I found the original list, but I'll add the names of the books here later) over the next few days). I might even remember to dig out the red envelopes I made the kids a couple of years ago and slip some $$ into them (hmm, I could just use them for their February allowance and kill two birds and save some money).
Looking back over Chinese New Years past (2009-Ox, 2010-Tiger, 2011-Rabbit), I love to see how our traditions evolve and cement, and how what once felt thrown-together and half-assed now feels like a part of life.
Astrology (of any type) always confuses me, and the many different factors and permutations always leaves my head spinning and makes me kind of tired, so I won't do any speculating on what the dragon (or, more specifically, Black Water Dragon) means for the coming year, but I will steal this quote from this site:
Dragon is a legendary animal and it is symbol of emperor in China. Since the Dragon is coated with mysterious color, Chinese consider that the dragon is unpredictable, untouchable and people cannot see its head and tail at the same time. Therefore, we can might see something unexpected happening in 2012. Also a person with too many dragons in the Chinese astrology birth chart will become smarter, sly and unpredictable in the coming year.
So, may you have something unexpected (in a good way) this year. And may you be fierce and strong like a dragon.