Celebrating Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year

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The Chinese New Year is a festival quiet with the hope of good fortune, yet booming with the spectacle of exploding firecrackers and dancing dragons. It is marked not only by number, but also by animal. According to Chinese legend, Buddha invited all the creatures in his kingdom to appear before him. The 12 animals who completed the journey the rat, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, serpent, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig were each honored for their presence with rotating names of the year: 2013 is the Year of the Snake.

People prepare for the holiday by cleaning their homes, paying their debts, buying new clothing, and cooking enormous feasts. Many individuals spiritually and physically sweep away all traces of bad luck from the previous year.

Parents encourage children to stay awake as long as their eyes will remain open. Legend says that the longer children battle sleep, the longer their parents will live. At midnight, firecrackers, paper-dragon dances, parades, and red clothing commemorate the legend of Nain, a mythical beast who terrorized villagers once every year. The din that is created is meant to drive away any lingering devils or spirits.

This year, celebrate the New Year with a few projects that kids can do every day: a Chinese game of Rock, Paper, Scissors; a signature stamp; and a batch of Chinese dumplings. Visit our Chinese New Year page for crafts, recipes and party ideas to help mark the occasion.

ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS

For as long as most of us can remember, kids have been trying to one-up each other in the game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. In China, children take it a step further. Here's how:

Two kids sit side by side at the bottom of a short staircase. On the count of three, both of them must throw one hand forward in the form of a rock (a fist), paper (fingers held together, straight out), or scissors (forefinger and middle finger in a "V"). Following the logic that paper covers rock, rock breaks scissors, and scissors cut paper, the player who presents the winning symbol in that round moves up one step. If both kids display the same symbol, it's considered a tie. Play continues in this manner until one child reaches the top step and wins the game.

STAMP YOUR NAME

When a Chinese artist signs his paintings, he uses a carved stone block or chop to print his symbol on the canvas. To personalize her art or stationery, your child can make a decorative signature stamp out of Styrofoam and cardboard.

First, have your child write her initials on tracing paper, making the letters as ornate as she likes or incorporating them into a unique design. Next, place the paper printed-side down on a clean Styrofoam meat tray. Trace over the design with a pen, bearing down to leave an impression in the Styrofoam. Cut out the design, leaving a narrow border all the way around, and glue it onto a piece of cardboard trimmed to the same size.

For a handle, glue a tissue tube to the back. Then press the stamp onto an ink pad, and it's ready to use.

STEAMED DUMPLINGS

During the Chinese New Year this month, families in China will feast on jiaozi, delectable meat-filled dumplings. With this easy recipe, you can prepare a batch to serve at a family celebration of your own. Or, in true Chinese fashion, invite your neighbors to share a platterful while you ring in the new year.

3 stalks Chinese cabbage
2 scallions
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1 lb. lean ground pork
1 10-oz. package prepared
dumpling wrappers
(available at Asian food stores)

Finely chop the Chinese cabbage and scallions and put them in a mixing bowl. Add the soy sauce, salt, cornstarch, and pork. Mix well with a spoon.

Place 1 teaspoon of filling on each wrapper. Fold the wrappers into half circles. Moisten the inside edges with water, and press them together to seal.

In a large pot, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Drop in the dumplings and cover. When the water resumes boiling, add 1 cup of cold water. Repeat this step twice. When the water boils for the third time, the dumplings will be done. Serve with 1/4 cup soy sauce mixed with 2 tablespoons white vinegar. Makes 4 dozen dumplings.

 

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