The Chinese New Year, which is dictated by the lunar calendar, begins on the first full moon of every year. This year’s festivities start February 3, 2011, and mark the year of the Rabbit – one of the twelve animals of the Chinese Zodiac. To prepare for its coming, families clean their homes from top to bottom to make room for any good fortune that the New Year may bring. Walls, doors, and window frames are adorned with decorations and/or painted in the color red, and living plants are brought in to symbolize growth and rebirth. And much like our western holiday celebrations, families gather together to partake in traditional meals, gift-exchanges, and the lighting of firecrackers.
And while the Chinese New Year may not be officially recognized in the United States, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t join in on the festivities. Chinese culture is rich in its traditions, so a celebration of the holiday can be a great excuse to learn about their customs – while throwing a party! It’s also a great opportunity to involve children in the preparations, which can help educate them about what the Chinese New Year is all about. For instance, baking fortune cookies can be a fun way to teach kids about the concept of luck, which is one of the major themes surrounding the Chinese New Year.
• 1 egg white
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 cup white sugar
• 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Preheat your oven to 350°F, and line a cookie sheet with a silpat mat or parchment paper.
Combine all of your ingredients together in a blender until smooth. Using a regular spoon, drop some batter onto the lined cookie sheet, and spread it out with the back of your spoon to make circles 3-inches in diameter. Do not make any more than 4 or 5 cookies per batch.
Bake cookies for 5-7 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven, and, using a spatula, gently lift the cookies from the cookie sheet. You will need to work very quickly at this point because the cookies harden as they cool.
Insert your paper fortune in the center, and fold the cookie in half over it. Once the cookie is halved, fold again by pressing the sides against the rim of a glass. Allow the cookie to sit on the rim of the glass until it has completely cooled.
Recipe very slightly adapted from here.
Once the cookies have cooled, they can be packaged in chinese take-out boxes and labeled to be given as gifts. I chose the “Persimmon Flower” style circle labels and tags in red and gold (traditional Chinese New Year colors). If working with children, have them write out their own fortunes for the cookies (google “sayings about luck” for inspiration). When giving them to friends and relatives they can share what they’ve learned about the Chinese New Year!
More Ways to Celebrate the Chinese New Year:
• Decorate your home with traditional Chinese decorations. Stay tuned for Rachel’s tutorial on how to make your very own Chinese Paper Lanterns! – To be posted this Friday, January 21.
• Wear red and gold clothing for good luck.
• Display peach blossoms and water lilies for good luck and longevity.
• Prepare a Chinese meal. Make it a potluck or order Chinese take-out.