Chinese New Year: Books, Crafts and Menu Ideas

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Whether you live in a big city or small town, it’s important to expose your kids to different ideas, experiences, and cultures. You may not have a Chinatown or Little Italy in your city but you can bring a little cultural experience home with a family celebration.

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Due to my oldest daughter’s fascination with Asian culture, we have held a Chinese New Year celebration in our home for that last few years. January 23, 1012 marks the Year of the Dragon and we’ve been getting ready to celebrate.

Chinese New Year Books

Books are always a great way to share new experiences and traditions from other worlds. Barefoot Books publishes a number of stories that do just that, expose kids to stories from lands they may have only heard of. Lin Yi’s Lantern: A Moon Festival Story, may not be specifically about Chinese New Year but it’s one of our favourites because of the lanterns (it offers instructions on how to make the lanterns at the back of the book too. You can read our full review.

Some other great books to share during your Chinese New Year celebration:

A New Year’s Reunion
My First Chinese New Year
Sam and the Lucky Money
Round is a Moon Cake

Chinese New Year Crafts

Crafts are a great way to get the kids involved with any celebration; I believe there’s a stronger connection to what is being celebrated. A really easy craft is Paper Lanterns. Kids can colour and decorate a piece of paper (construction paper, leftover computer paper, even newsprint).

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Once the lantern design is done, fold the paper in half and cut strips all the way up, making sure to not cut through the top. Unfold and warp the paper around so the edges touch and staple.

 

These are easy for even the youngest family members to decorate. When done, the paper lanterns make a nice decoration for your Chinese New Year’s Dinner.

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As this year celebrates the Year of the Dragon, we wanted to do incorporate dragons into our celebration. Chinese New Year parades usually end with the Chinese Dragon Dance. Performers, who walk underneath a colourful dragon costume, raise and lower the dragon’s body to look like it’s dancing. We wanted to have our own Chinese Dragon Dance so we created our own dragons.

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We have more pictures and instructions on how to create your own dragon here.

Chinese New Year Dinner

The main part of our Chinese New Year is the food and ribs are a must for our menu. Love this asian-inspired rib recipe from VH Sauces

Chinese Honey Garlic Spareribs

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Ingredients

1 1/2 lb (700 g) whole back ribs or side ribs cut lengthways iinto two
1 bottle VH® Honey Garlic Cooking Sauce (half for marindate and half for basting)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp. (30 mL) vegetable oil
1 tsp (5 mL) chili flakes
1/4 cup (125 mL) water

Preparation

  1. In a large baking dish stir together half bottle of VH® Honey Garlic Cooking Sauce, minced garlic, oil and chili flakes. Add ribs and marinate in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
  2. Preheat over to 350F (170C)
  3. Place a large sheet of aluminum foil on a baking sheet. Place all of the ribs and marinade on sheet. Add ¼ cup (125 mL) water and enclose everything making sure to seal it well.
  4. Bake in oven for 1 1/2 hours, basting occasionally with marinade.
  5. Open pack and bake for a further 20 minutes, basting with the second half of bottle
  6. Serve hot, brushed with sauce from the foil package

Serve that with a mound of sticky rice and lots of napkins. My kids love them.

For the rest of your Chinese New Year menu try adding a variety of tastes, including items such as:

  • Spring Rolls. I haven’t figured out how to make these yet so I usually buy them premade and serve with a plus sauce, like VH Sauces Plum Dipping Sauce
  • Tempura Vegetables. Thanks to the addition of our Hamilton Beach fryer, we’ll be doing our own this year, though you can make them with oil in a deep pan
  • Fried Rice. The nice thing about fried rice is you can toss anything in it: vegetables, tofu, chicken. We love adding shrimp. VH® Sauces has a Healthy Mixed Fried Rice recipe that looks good.
  • Lychee. We’re fortunate enough to live in a city with a Chinatown, so finding lychee in the Chinese supermarkets isn’t that difficult. However, many large chain grocery stores have also started carrying these. These fruits are a favourite with my kids, both peeling the hard skin off and chewing the sweet fruit off the large pit.

For other great recipe ideas, visit VH Sauces Chinese New Year’s Recipes section on their Facebook page.

Fortune cookies are a great way to end your Chinese New Year celebration; everyone loves to crack them open and share around the table their fortune for the year ahead. While I was searching for a roll recipe for a Midieval Feast (that’s a different article),what luck when I stumbled How Does She site’s dinner roll recipe and the gratitude idea. What a perfect alternative to fortune cookies. Fortune Rolls. They were easy to make; even my 5-year old got her hands floury helping me kneed the dough. I typed up some fortunes and baked them right in. The rolls turned our great and the kids loved finding their fortunes buried inside.

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With bellies full, the kids grabbed their dragons and did their own Chinese Dragon Dance right up to bed. Another Chinese New Year success.

This post was sponsored by VH Sauces. The Chinese Honey Garlic Sparerib recipe and images have been reprinted with permission.

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