Bang A Gong, Get It On: Your Lunar New Year Party Recipe

Party-Gyle by | Feb 2013 | Issue #73

Yes, it’s Chinese New Year on February 10th, but that just means it’s the beginning of the lunar calendar’s annual cycle. And it’s not just the Chinese who celebrate it. To be sure, more civilizations around the world have followed a lunar calendar for much longer than our current Gregorian calendar, and most parts of East Asia still do for their most important holidays. So with that in mind, it’s perfectly appropriate to sound the gong and declare a party for the start of the Year of the Snake.

Your celebration might have a few missing elements, such as firecrackers and a long, twisting dragon costume with four or five people inside it. But you can always make up for it by adding some perks of your own. It’s typical to decorate homes with lucky colors of red and gold on the holiday, which can be translated to Red Ales and golden lagers perched in a central ice bucket. And how about some spring rolls and dumplings? We, the ever-resourceful Americans, have knighted these crispy, savory snacks as some of our favorite bar foods. Add some sweet & sour spareribs and hot & spicy wings to the equation, and it’s a proper American party platter, perfect for cold winter nights.

Keep in mind that firecrackers and fireworks are traditionally used on New Year to scare away any lingering bad spirits. You might find that—instead of setting the backyard on fire with a cherry bomb—the popcorn maker you got over the holidays makes a terrific racket all the same (and more snacks). Noisemakers from the other New Year’s celebration a couple months past can be repurposed here, too, and your largest metal pot (think homebrew-sized) makes a pretty good gong substitute when suspended.

One tradition on Chinese New Year is exchanging red envelopes filled with money (or gold foil-covered chocolate “coins”) with friends and family. It’s like a miniature stocking, only with the stuff you want. Maybe as the host of the event, you can dole out the envelopes for folks to place party contributions in at the end of the night. A few token chocolate coins can be tossed around the space as snacks, setting the tone for prosperity and good luck (hey, it’s better than displaying snakes).

A more fun party game to play, though, is reading the fortunes of each Chinese zodiac sign. Chances are there will be a good variety of animal signs at any given party, as each year in the 12-year lunar cycle is denoted by a different animal. Break out a book or printed calendar, and find out who’s what, who’s more compatible with which sign, and what attributes set you apart. The horoscopes for each in 2013 should provide plenty of conversation fodder. Even if some don’t predict such a great year, you can all start it out strong with a good New Year’s celebration.

Here are some traditional foods eaten on Chinese New Year, along with lucky beer pairing suggestions:

Stir-fried noodles with chicken and vegetables (Longevity Noodles) // Pale Ales, IPAs, lagers

Pork dumplings // Brown or Amber Ales, Strong Ales, Stouts

Pan-fried whole fish // Pilsners, Wheat beers, Saisons

Citrus fruits // Hefeweizens, sour Farmhouse Ales