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Friday, February 8, 2013

Crafts and Recipes for the Year of the Snake

Happy Chinese New Year!
Dressed in her New Year's Outfit and sporting her big "owie"

I have always celebrated Chinese New Year but this year it took on a special significance since we now have our own Chinese Empress at home. You may not have any Chinese family members but this holiday is so much fun for children that you might want to try a few traditions out and learn about a new culture.

Chinese New Year follows the lunar calendar. It can vary from the end of January beginning of February depending on the year. For 2012 the date falls on February 10th.

Examples of typical Chinese family housing-apartments (background), townhouses (middle), farm with fields (foreground)

What is Chinese New Year?  Well only the biggest holiday in most of Asia. EVERYBODY takes two weeks off from work, often traveling hundreds of miles back to their "home", to celebrate with family and community. It is a time to honor the coming of spring and reunion with those we love. All traces of the old year are removed as homes are cleaned and repaired, debts paid, relationships mended, new clothes bought, and there are lots of very special traditions like.....

The  Red and Gold Door Banner

This tradition is probably as old as paper and writing in China.
Our family banner was made of joss, scrapbook and origami papers. 
I carved  the backside of styrofoam meat trays with pencils.
 I rolled on black acrylic paint.
I stamped the symbols on the paper.
Dragons, horoscope animals, melons, bats, butterflies, the kitchen god and chubby toddlers are all commom symbols  found on door banners. Chinese characters are done in caligraphy for good luck and
 blessings in the new year.

Door Banners stay up all year only to be replaced by new ones when the next New Year comes.

Red Envelopes
are given out as gifts especially to children. They contain real or chocolate coins and are thought to bring good luck and prosperity to the person who receives them. They are also used to "feed" the lion and dragon dancers.   

I picked these firecracker decorations up on my trip to China. They came in handy since we had a ban on firecrackers in our city this year. Normally we would have set off real ones near our front door.You can make your own string of firecrackers with painted and decorated toliet paper tubes strung together. Hundreds of firecrackers go off in January or February in Asia to scare away evil spirits and welcome the 

 .....dragon and lion dancers.
Drums, cymbals and the Buddha leads a team of martial arts practitioners dressed in costume through a loud,colorful, parade down all the streets in a community. The dragon can be up to 40 feet long and require several people to lift and move gracefully. 

I also bought this mini lion in China so the girls could do their own lion dances.

Maybe snakes are more to your taste for a dance partner.

Using glasses or jars- trace and then cut out lots of circles in a variety of sizes

Create scales by coating bubble wrap in gold paint and then pressing it onto the paper

Here is the head and tale.

Glue the head, tail, and spinal segments on a long piece of ribbon.

Attach 3-4 dowels or sticks to the ribbon so that the snake can be carried by several children and made to dance.

We made lots of snakes 
since it is this animal's year on the Chinese horoscope.
This one is made from red and gold paint, paper, and egg cartons

This one is made from cardboard toliet paper tubes.

By cutting the ends into triangles and attaching overlapping tubes together with brads,  you can make the sections articulate and your snake slither along.

are considered to be just as lucky for the New Year as the color red. A guest or traveling family member might grab a few in the street market as a gift for the hostess. Most families will have a least one special bowl on hand just for goldfish.

Our goldfish was made by melting shaved crayons between two sheets of wax paper to make a sun and wind catcher.

Here is the template I used to cut the fish shape after an iron was used to melt the wax paper together.
I used tissue paper to make the lips and fins.

are the most popular dish served on the first day of the New Year. It is considered very lucky to stay up until midnight and have dumplings as the first thing you eat.

Dumplings with Peanut Sauce Recipe

Dumpling Filling

In a large pan saute
2 -4 cups of ground meat of your choice (beef, pork, turkey or vegetarian protein like Korn)
1 bunch of green onion finely chopped
3 gloves of garlic finely chopped
1 inch of fresh ginger finely chopped
1tsp of Chinese Five Spice (if you can find it)
Salt to taste
Set aside
2-4 cups of napa cabbage
1/4 -1/2 cup of herbs of your choice (basil,mint,cilantro, etc.)
Mix in what you set aside

You could also add mushrooms, bean sprouts and other vegetables

How to shape the dumplings
Take a circle of wonton or gyoza skin (you will need to buy 2-3 packages)
Lightly wet the entire circle with water
Place 1 TBSP of filling in the middle
Fold into a half moon shape, pinch  the edges together tightly, and pleat.
Boil or steam until done. Steamed dumplings are less likely to fall apart

Children love shape dumplings!
This recipe makes about 100 dumplings which is just right for a family of four.

Peanut Dipping Sauce 

In a food processor combine
1 cup of chunky peanut butter
2 TBSP of soy sauce
2 TBSP of Seasoned Rice Wine Vinegar Dressing
1 TBSP of Worcestershire sauce
2 TBSP of sugar
2 TBSP of toasted sesame oil
1 TBSP of fresh minced ginger
2 minced garlic gloves
1 tsp of red chile flakes

Blend until smooth adding a small amount of water to thin into desired consistency


Here are some great books for reference and fun reading

Moonbeams, Dumplings and Dragon Boats by Nina Simonds and Leslie Swartz
Holidays and Festivals-Chinese New Year by Nancy Dickmann
A New Year's Reunion by Yu Li-Qiong
Dumpling Soup by Jama Kim Rattigan
A Gift by Yong Chen

You can find all of these at the library or through the inter-library loan system

The New Year holiday ends on the last day with the Lantern Festival.
On the 15 day of the first moon which is actually the first full moon of the year, everybody takes to the streets for a big party full of fun and entertainment. Lanterns can be made of any kind of material from paper to glass. They come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Imagine hundreds of these lighting up the streets for one special night.

Fold a piece of red paper in half.
Starting at the fold, mark and measure some lines about one inch apart.
Leave 1-2 inches of space at the edge of the paper
A large sheet of scrapbook paper seems to be the best size and is more sturdy than construction paper.

Cut along all of your lines.
Reverse you paper so your marks don't show.

Roll your paper into a cylinder.
Staple, tape, or glue both edges to form a tube.
Push the ends together to get the middle to flair out along the folds.
Decorate with streamers or tassels.

Punch two holes at the top.
Hang with pipe cleaner or string.

Here is another lantern style that is quick and easy to make.
Cut a large circle from scrapbook paper.
Use stamps and gold ink to decorate.
Use a plate to draw some curved lines to create the illusion of it being round and three dimentional.
Using glue add some gold rectangles on the top and bottom.
Punch two holes in the top rectangle.
Thread a string or pipe cleaner into the holes for hanging.

This would look so pretty as several lanterns hung together in a long line. 

Happy New Year. May it be full of health, happiness, and prosperity for you and your family!
(I will be adding a few more photos to this post as our family celebrates over the next few days)


  1. Neat ideas, thank you! We are going to try one of the floating lanterns this year. :)

  2. I adore this!!! I have adopted children from Asia :) and I homeschool!! I am so thriled to find your blog :)