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Yesterday our family held our first Chinese New Year celebration. I love doing culture studies with the kids, but one thing that always hangs us up is the study of other religions. Talking about religious beliefs that are different from ours can sometimes be confusing to the younger ones, so I usually reserve that part of the study for my older kids. For our Chinese New Year lesson, I wanted to find out how Chinese Christians celebrate their New Year, since many of the traditions surrounding the holiday are based in Buddhist and occult theology.
Originally, the Chinese New Year had no religious significance. It marked the beginning of Spring and the signal to farmers to start putting in their crops. Though pagan practices were later added to the celebration, Christian Chinese have also found a way to celebrate this time in the book of 2 Corinthians: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" Farmers often plant new seeds at this time and Chinese Christians see the symbolism of "planting the seeds" of the gospel by sharing it with their neighbors.
A second way that the Chinese prepare for the new year is by deep cleaning their houses and going to get their hair cut or styled. On New Years Day, they hide their brooms or vacuums in the closet and do no work on that day---similar to celebrating the traditional Jewish Sabbath. Before we set up for our Chinese New Year party, Michael swept the house and the other kids did their chores so our home would be clean and comfortable.
Another tradition associated with Chinese New Year is the giving of ang pows---red packets that contain money and are meant to bring good luck and financial wealth, and to ward off evil spirits. Chinese Christians like to keep this custom, especially for children, but the gift is meant as a blessing of friendship and love and does not carry the other connotations. I found some Joss paper at a local Asian market and made up some red envelopes for the kids. I put a Scripture verse or blessing having to do with "newness" in each one. It would also be fun to use these to play a game of trivia or 20 questions.
A big part of our celebration was, of course, the food! We've enjoyed the delicious egg and spring rolls from Tai Pei® before, so we knew these needed to be the main appetizer at the party. We have a pretty big range of ages here and everyone likes them---especially when dipped in the sweet and sour sauce that comes in each box. One thing I really appreciate about the Tai Pei® products is that there is a good amount of food in each package and there is plenty enough sauce for dipping all the rolls in the package.
Elisha and I went out shopping on Tuesday to gather all of the supplies we needed for the party and stopped by Walmart to grab a good selection of Tai Pei® appetizers. We found these at Walmart in the freezer aisle marked "Convenience Meals". They come in several varieties, including Pork, Chicken, Shrimp, and Vegetable. We bought the Mini Vegetable Spring Rolls and the full size Chicken Egg Rolls and Shrimp Egg Rolls.
We started our party by talking about the welcoming of Spring and the importance of new beginnings. Then we headed for the table to make a family craft. I had drawn a brown branch on a piece of card stock and the kids took turns putting their red and pink fingerprints on the branches as cherry blossoms.
After that, I talked with them about the tradition of ang pows and let a few kids open them and read their blessings to the family. They really liked this idea and I heard several little voices in the background saying, "I want one of those!" Guess I'd better make up some more!
While I set up our food table, the kids played a game of Chinese-themed 20 Questions. When Elisha and I stopped by the Asian market, we found so many fun treats we wanted to try. We bought green Mung bean cake, coconut candy, fortune cookies, and panda cookies. These were all great compliments to our main appetizers, the egg and spring rolls.
When I went in to tell the kids the food was ready, they were having a debate about Chinese elephants. One of the kids used "elephants" as the word they were thinking of in the game, so we took a few minutes to look up elephants in China and found some neat pictures of painted elephants celebrating Chinese New Year. Some were painted like tigers and others like panda bears.
We all love the taste of the crispy wrappers, especially on the egg rolls. The vegetables are flavorful and each roll is packed full of filling. In the meat varieties, the meat is moist and there is a good amount of it in each roll. These are just great quality rolls all around. (Get it? rolls...around... sorry.)
Our kids love learning about the traditions of other cultures. In fact, Lynzie declared she likes the Chinese New Year celebration better than our own---so we might have to incorporate some of these ideas into our next New Years Eve party. Have you ever done anything to celebrate Chinese New Year? I'd love to hear about your experiences!
For more information on Tai Pei® products, visit them online and make sure to check out the Chinese New Year app on their Facebook page. The Red Envelope tab will open up a coupon while supplies last.
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