Monday, February 11, 2013

from pink tulle to red silk

i don't typically decorate with snakes.  in fact,  this was kind of a first for me. and it ended up being one of those table decorations which i felt the need to "explain" all evening long, at least to the cute little girls who were hesitantly sizing up the slithery things while reaching for an egg roll.  but, after all, it is the year of the snake and for this chinese new year we decided to pull out all the stops and throw in a few serpents.  (vintage dollar store... spray painted antique gold). sssss...

sienna, ruby, bella and emme jade!
really, take one look at these pictures and you'll know we had some fun.  my good friend, diana, and i joined together in our mandarin madness and, along with our husbands, hosted a chinese new year party this past saturday night. rick and i have been wanting to do this since bringing bella home from china. it seemed a wonderful way to celebrate a tiny part of her culture and homeland.  yes, she lives in america. and yes, she is now 100% a part of an american family,  but our little girl was born on the other side of the world in a unique and extraordinary land.  as much as we are thrilled that she's here, we do desire, in some way, to embrace the beauty and rich history of her incredible heritage.

though we have no immediate plans to follow the zodiac calendar or worship our ancestors, there is much about the chinese culture to celebrate.   and that's what we did saturday night.  we aren't going to be adding buddha to our home anytime soon, there will be no following of multiple gods or reverence for the dragon...but we can pull out the artful aspects of china's opulent beauty and we can very much celebrate the place of our daughters' birth.  one of my favorite things on saturday night was when our friend, michelle, brought us a lovely hostess gift.  in our gift she also included a red envelope for each of our children (my 5 and diana's 4).  inside each envelope she had placed a two dollar bill (giving money to children on this holiday is customary), but on the outside of the envelope she had taken the time to write "Jesus loves you" in chinese.  the ancient chinese ancestors might not like that, but we sure loved it!

i'm glad we pushed ourselves along with this party plan.  it wasn't completely easy.  with two of my girls sharing an early february birthday, there's a part of me which feels all party-ed out this month -- understandably.  but, again, i'm pleased we found the margin to make this happen. it was worth every detailed list or late night. and it was such a blast to work with a kindred party planning buddy -- thanks diana rouse!  so this week my thoughts and plans moved rapidly from pink tulle (bella's ballet party -- last saturday) to red silk.  i've included some interesting tidbits about this holiday and a few photos (the really good photos are from diana's camera) from our party.  i hope you enjoy!

a few facts about the chinese new year:

Chinese New Year is celebrated in countries and territories with significant Chinese populations, including Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Philippines, and also in Chinatowns elsewhere.
bella may be our only chinese child, but she's significant enough for us to celebrate!

It is also traditional for every family to thoroughly cleanse the house, in order to sweep away any ill-fortune and to make way for good incoming luck. 
well, we really don't believe in the ideas of "luck" and "fortune"...but i am absolutely a big fan of a thorough house cleansing.   i am not sure we swept away any ill-fortune, but i did have a great big pile of dog hair when i finished with my broom!

Legend has it that in ancient times, Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve came, and Buddha named a year after each one. He announced that the people born in each animal's year would have some of that animal's personality. Those born in snake years are wise, charming, gregarious, introverted, generous, and smart.
so, i guess that explains the snake.  he must have been one of the 12 animals hanging out with buddha.  a few other animals attending the buddha meeting were the rat, ox, dragon and pig....personally i wouldn't have incorporated rats or snakes, i think we could have come up with some other, more charming creatures, but okay.  whatever.  we'll go with it. bella, by the way, is the year of the rat.  i know this because her orphanage gave us a statue with a rat on it.  it was a nice thought, but needless to say, the rat statue isn't on display in her bedroom. 

Windows and doors will be decorated with red colour paper-cuts and couplets with popular themes of "good fortune" or "happiness", "wealth", and "longevity." Other activities include lighting firecrackers and giving money in red paper envelopes.
yes.  we embraced this part with great enthusiasm.  (did someone say "decorating???") lots and lots of red and gold.  i ordered paper lanterns and then even ordered some more...because can you ever have enough paper lanterns?  remind me to tell you the story sometime about how i wrangled rick into hanging them for me.  "a little to the, honey, a little to the right...a little, a little lower."  we were able to hang exactly 3 together before he, in order to save our marriage, carefully removed himself from the dining room and my gigantic pile of lanterns.  what can i say, i had a vision...

At Chinese New Year celebrations people wear red clothes, decorate with poems on red paper, and give children "lucky money" in red envelopes. Red symbolizes fire, which according to legend can drive away bad luck. The fireworks that shower the festivities are rooted in a similar ancient custom. Long ago, people in China lit bamboo stalks, believing that the crackling flames would frighten evil spirits.
i hadn't thought at all about fireworks, but thankfully our good friends, leslie and greg robertson, were on it.  greg brought his supply and shot a few off for the kids down on the lake.  by the way, please don't tell my boys about the bamboo stalks of fire custom ...they'd be all over that one... and knowing us, we'd probably end up burning away more than just some bad luck.

one part of our party which we didn't photograph, but i must mention, is the minnesota influence.  in minnesota, it is customary to remove your shoes at the front door.  (i think that's kind of chinese too -- but for different reasons of course).  i WISH i could show you a picture of what our foyer looked like after approximately 75 people shed their shoes....just imagine!  it was right up there with the golden snakes. when we first moved to minnesota, i had a hard time with this. for you see,  i am a shoe girl.  i wear them and i like them.  i like them on my feet, not at the front door.  sometimes i even plan my outfit around my shoes. (i realize i have just given you some really, really, really shallow information about myself....oh well...judge if you must).  but i suppose it was a really good thing after the mushy, wet wintry weather we've had this week, that most of the minnesotans removed their shoes saturday night.  next year, we plan to have chinese flip flops or silk slippers available for everyone! new shoes? happy chinese new year, indeed!

so, that's it.  that was chinese new year 2013.  what i loved most about this evening was the fun.  it was a really fun night watching so many different people come together.  it was a blessing to see friends who had probably never attended a chinese new year party stop by and celebrate with great enthusiasm...not because they are necessarily connected to the chinese new year, but because they have a connection with our families -- and that's something worth celebrating for sure!

feeling really blessed tonight as i write this...blessed...(and i'll admit) a little bit exhausted.

and just in case you were's the year of the horse.  giddy up!  let the party planning begin!


almond tea cookies.  we made these.  yes, yes we did.  
diana and i got together on friday for some chinese cooking in my kitchen. we were especially proud of our asian dumplings AKA "pot stickers."  they weren't the prettiest pot stickers ever to grace a chinese table (thus, we didn't photograph them)...but they were super yummy!

i took these photos the next morning.  we had several inches of snow that night and throughout the day...  snow tipped chinese lanterns....minnesota style!


DiJo said...

Love this post!!!! Such a blessing to celebrate what has become not only part of our girls, but part of us! There's something very charming about gold snakes and snow covered lanterns.. Loved the memories made, especially the dumpling extravaganza on Friday! "Xie-Xie" Jody for brilliantly switching into red silk mode! It was a beautiful party... LOVED doing it with you! Happy Year of the Snake! Love, Di

Aus said...

Great stuff Jody - we get to do CNY twice - once with the families locally that have adopted from Korea, and again with the families locally that have adopted from China! And hey - I look at the cultures this way - If today it is possible to write Jesus Loves You in Chinese (and Korean BTW) - if they can incorporate that into their culture - then the least I can do is put a nice budda in the left rear corner (fung shui area for "wealth") of our home - which in our case is the kitchen counter! It doesn't mean you worship him - it just means you respect the culture from whence the tradition (and three of our kids!) come from!

Glad it was a good celebration - LOVE the gung hey fat choi banner - have to find one! - and the snow covered lanterns - outstanding!

hugs - aus and co.

Kelleyn Rothaermel said...

What an awesome party!