Gong Xi Fa Cai

Gong Xi Fa Cai (gong-zee-fah-tsai), a way to say “happy new year”, are words that have been part of my vocabulary since I was nine. Did you learn about Chinese or Lunar New Year when you were in third grade? If not, you missed out but you’re in luck because I’m gonna learn ya something!

I got to use two Christmas gifts to make this post happen! “What Do You Celebrate?” immediately transported me back to Mrs. Cheshire’s class when I opened to the colorful pages to the first celebration, Chinese New Year. And “Craft the Rainbow” provided the most perfect project for this post.

I can’t quite pinpoint the start of my interest in Asian culture but it’s definitely been there. In fact, my 13th birthday party was Asian themed and I proudly donned my pink, flowery, silky get-up from Disney’s Animal Kingdom for the occasion. And when my family visited San Fransisco a few spring breaks ago I insisted we visit Chinatown. We enjoyed a delicious meal and stumbled upon the neatest, tiniest fortune cookie factory where I stood in awe taking it all in.

According to “What Do You Celebrate?”, Xin Nian (shin nyan), or Chinese New Year, this is the largest celebration lasting a week or longer during January or February in China. According to our calendar, this year’s lunar new year falls on February 12th. Legend says that a hungry beast named Nian used to descend from the mountains to the village eating all kinds of things in its path on the first night of the new year. The villagers were instructed that Nian was scared of “loud noises, fire, and the color red”. For this reason, they “decorated their houses in red and put on red clothing”. I encourage you to google more about Chinese New Year like I did to dive deeper into the rich history & traditions of this vibrant holiday; I’m just here to get the party started.

I’m fairly certain we made some sort of red paper chain decor in that third grade classroom, but felt my grown-up celebration could use a bit more sophistication. I actually found this very ‘Anthropologie’-like craft under the blue section in “Craft the Rainbow” but made it red to fit the occasion.

I say Anthropologie-like because they have a wonderful habit of transforming very ordinary objects into beautiful, eye-catching works of art like these coffee filters & paper muffin cups. Here’s the process:

This craft honestly made me giddy! From dyeing to drying & stringing, this was a sweet little labor of love. You could use red cupcake liners but 1. there’s no fun in that & 2. dyeing allows for varied shades of color and the texture adds so much to this project. To finish it off, I strung the finished filters & liners on a spray-painted gold square dowel rod & tied red velvet ribbon to hang.

I adore how this crafting venture turned out & can pretty much guarantee this will not be the last paper project like this you see-the color possibilities are limitless!

I also wanted to make a sweet treat to celebrate so I tried my hand at fortune cookies! Now here’s where I should have done more research beforehand…fortune cookies are not listed as traditional New Year fare. I forgot that they were invented in San Fransisco 🙈 most likely by a Japanese immigrant to America. I needed to make this confession because I don’t want to mislead ya. I’m looking at this as a marrying of cultures though & the fact that I just really wanted to attempt making this tasty cookie.

I originally planned on dipping the edges of the cookies in white chocolate then sprinkling red and gold sugar on top to add sparkle, but being homemade they weren’t quite perfectly closed as pre-packaged. So what you could do is support your favorite local Chinese restaurant by purchasing fortune cookies & then fancy-fy them with chocolate and sprinkles.

I am looking forward to a year of celebrating other culture’s festivals & I hope you’ll join me in traveling around the world to learn about different holidays. Until then, Guo Nian Hao (gwo nyan how) – Have a happy New Year!

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