Happy Chinese New Year!


Since Chinese New Year falls on the date this issue of our paper prints, let’s celebrate! What? You usually don’t pay attention to this holiday? I don’t suppose a majority of Americans in our “heartland” area do. Try a party like my family has had ever since Kathie brought home a dragon hat that she made at school several Januarys ago. The timing for the school project with the holiday may have been a coincidence, but I thought it made a good excuse to bring home some carryout from our local Chang Tai Restaurant. It was also an excuse for me to play with the origami that I so love to do. From there, our Chinese New Year took on a Japanese flair.

Although origami is a Japanese word for the art of paper folding, the craft can be traced back to China centuries before it appeared in Japan. For our oriental party, I made a blue, five-tiered pagoda for the table centerpiece. Then, I made four sanbos (offering boxes) from the same blue paper for place favors and put a fortune cookie in each. We made three more dragon hats patterned after the one from school. Even Daddy Mark was made to wear his hat through most of the dinner. Dressed for the occasion, I wore a kimono that my dad brought from Japan for my mom while he was in the Air Force in the ’40s, and the girls wrapped silky robes over their clothes.

To set the mood further, we played a CD called Mysterious Orient – “music inspired by the haunting melodies and traditional rhythms of the Far East” by Fred Story. We drank oolong tea with our fried rice, mei fun, and various chicken stirfry combinations. The dragons’ heads on the hats each had different features; some looked fierce, some friendly. They stuck out from our foreheads just enough to make us look up, cross-eyed, every so often, and we laughed at each other while we ate.

Those of us who do well with chop sticks (Mark) used them. The girls are all right with them, too, when they eat with the special sticks their dad fashioned for them using a rubber band to hold the chopsticks together around a wooden pin that the sticks pivot around. It’s a clever idea and much easier for little hands to maneuver. The kids have been using them since they were toddlers. I prefer a fork.

After that first party, I packed up the hats and paper ornaments, stored them, and we used them again for several years. Too bad they were in our basement, which has been so wet since all the rain last summer. All the paper things for Chinese New Year became stuck together with mildew. It was time for them to go anyway.

This year, we’re not worrying about decorations. We can still order dinner from Chang Tai and for dessert maybe I’ll try the Five-Spice Cookies that are featured this week.

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A special book for kids and adults that fits well with this theme is The Cat That Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth with special illustrations by Lynd Ward. I read it with Josie a few years ago. Kathie brought it home from her school library over Christmas break. It was new to her, so now I can enjoy it with her again.

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