Planning a Chinese New Year Party

By: Rajkamta

If you went to China to ring in the new year, you'd be overwhelmed by a frenzy of family, festivities, food and fireworks! On Jan. 22, as the Chinese say goodbye to the Year of the Ram, you can bring a little bit of China into your home by celebrating the beginning of the Year of the Monkey. A vivacious, inquisitive creature, the monkey indicates that the new year will be full of passion, liveliness and prosperity!

Chinese New Year festivities are just as dynamic and spirited as the monkey and are a traditional part of ancient Chinese culture. Bring Chinese New Year joy into the lives of your friends and family with time-honored cooking, colorful decorations and activities for everyone.

Get colorful!

Red and gold are traditional symbols of luck and prosperity. Red also frightens away evil spirits and keeps them from creeping into the new year. Nian is the new year monster known in China for terrorizing children around the new moon and is easily frightened by loud music and bright colors. The Chinese use dancing, firecrackers and red costuming to ring in the new year, and keep out Nian.

Decorate with traditional colors and themes by stacking red plates and cups at one end of a buffet table and allowing guests to serve themselves from the variety of entrees laid out before them. For added flare, dust gold confetti over a black tablecloth. Wrap chopsticks (which can be found at your local Panda Express) in a red napkin and tie them together with shimmering gold ribbon. Grab your wok from the kitchen, fill it with the napkin sets and place it at the other end of your buffet. If your guests -- or any children in the group -- don't know how to use chopsticks, see below for tips on teaching them how! Family-style dining is a convenient way to make sure your guests enjoy this feasting experience together.

Replace ordinary party gift bags with traditional red couplets. Your guests will love these small red envelopes which are usually inscribed in black with one of four Chinese characters signifying wealth prosperity abundance and long life. It is customary in China to give gifts in monetary form to denote paying off credit or debt. Enclose a small dollar amount in each red couplet, or fill them with gift certificates. Panda Express can provide you with gift certificates for any amount. You can also hang the couplets around your house as decoration and to ward off evil spirits.

Peonies symbolize love, affection and beauty and are known in China as "Flowers of Riches and Honor." Float them in glass bowls or sprinkle them across your buffet table. According to the Chinese, if a peach blossom blooms during the new year celebration it is a sure sign of future good fortune. Try stringing a flower garland to ornament your mantels or doorways.

Adorn your ceilings with red and black balloons tied with long gold ribbons. Line your walkway with traditional Chinese lanterns to draw light and luck -- along with your friends and family -- straight into your home.

Get hungry!

An expert in blending Chinese tradition with American culture, Panda Express serves up the perfect amount of spice for the new year. If you want to impress your guests by preparing your own Chinese dish, just follow the recipe below for tasty and traditional Kung Pao Chicken. It's easy to make and will fill your home with savory smells. If you're looking for a truly hassle-free celebration, let your local Panda Express come to the rescue! The restaurant makes party preparations easy by offering Firecracker Shrimp on its catering menu. Succulent shrimp, colorful peppers and black beans are sauteed with onion, ginger, garlic and wok-charred red chili peppers to create this festive dish.

The monkey is an impetuous creature and, much like the year ahead, it constantly sniffs out variety and rejuvenation. Make your buffet sparkle with an assortment of entrees. Group unique dishes, like the Firecracker Shrimp, with old favorites, like Orange Flavored Chicken and Broccoli with Beef. Quantities can be prepared for gatherings of any size -- worked fresh and ready when you are. Serve each dish large serving bowls on your lavish buffet table.

Get festive!

When your guests arrive, encourage them to take off their shoes and walk softly into your home. Walking tenderly invites a smooth transition into the new year. While it's tradition to start any new year on a clean slate, brooms and dustpans must be stored out of sight before New Year's Day to prevent good fortune from being swept away. Fill your home with loved ones, laughter and light. Enjoy the sweet smell of peach blossoms, the company of close friends and the traditional dishes of Panda Express. Kung Hay Fat Choy is Chinese for Happy New Year! Panda Express is Chinese for Yummy.

For more information visit www.pandaexpress.com.

Teach Your Friends to Use Chopsticks

First: The sticks are attached, but sectioned up the middle. Simply pull each end away from the other. Don't twist them apart or try a fancy way of snapping them; you wouldn't want a few splinters to hinder your dining experience! Once separated, you can rub the sticks together to smooth any rough edges. Step 1) The Base Stick: Place one stick so that it is cradled between the base of your thumb and forefinger. Hold it in place with the tip of your middle finger, as though you were holding a pencil.

Step 2) The Pivot Stick: Position the next chopstick so that it is pinned against the side of your index finger by the end of your thumb. Make sure the ends of the two sticks line up.

Step 3) The Pick-Up: Holding the base chopstick firmly in place, place a small amount of pressure on the Pivot Stick using the tip of your thumb as its base and your index finger to entice movement. The chopsticks should move like a pair of tweezers with the end of the Pivot Stick moving toward the end of the Base Stick. Slowly try to pick up a big piece of Orange Flavored Chicken, and then go for a small bite of your Kung Pao Chicken. Once you're a pro, try for a single grain of rice!

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