Gung hay fat choy! Sausalito's Bay Area Discovery Museum opens on a Monday (something that happens rarely) today for its annual Chinese New Year Festival. The festivities take place today (February 15, Presidents' Day) from 9 am to 5 pm. At the this celebration of the Year of the Monkey, the whole family can find something to do. Try your hand at traditional Chinese calligraphy, construct a paper lantern, see a vibrant performance by the Chinese Performing Arts of America Youth Group, hear performances of Chinese music, watch martial arts demonstrations, play traditional Chinese games, and dine on delicious Chinese food.
You can also learn about the Chinese zodiac and enjoy an exciting performance by the lion dancers of the Marin Chinese Cultural Group at 10 am and 2 pm. Lion dance performances take place in the museum's Festival Plaza.
Tomorrow, February 8, marks the beginning of the celebrations for Chinese New Year: the Year of the Monkey. It's a tradition in our house to make wontons, as dumplings are traditionally associated with the holiday. Wontons are easy to make, tasty, kid-friendly, and you can get everything you need at your local grocery store. Furthermore, they're something children can help make with minimal effort, and they even have a lot of fun folding the things.
So, pick up a pack of pre-made wonton wrappers and other ingredients and get ready to start your Chinese New Year wonton party! Our recipe is for chicken wontons, although you can use pork, shrimp, or other fillings, depending on what you like or happen to have on hand. Wontons can be prepared in a number of different ways, including steaming, boiling, frying, and can even be served in soup (our favorite).
1-1/4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into pieces
The Chinese Lunar New Year, the Year of the Monkey, starts tomorrow, February 8. To kick off your celebration, create some neat Chinese New Year crafts, like these cute paper dragons and lanterns. They're easy and fun to make and perfect to decorate the house, and make great playdate, school, or scout group activities. They'll also be perfect to have on hand while you watch the San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade on February 20. Have your own parade through the living room!
Here’s what you’ll need to make your dragons:
Gold stickers or paint (red and gold are traditional colors for Chinese New Year)
Chinese New Year starts next Monday, February 8, so we are making some of the traditional foods associated with the holiday. Foods that are made and eaten during the new year celebration often have symbolic meanings meant to invoke prosperity and good fortune. In this case, the name "longevity noodles" is self-explanatory: the long noodles symbolize a long and happy life. Don't break them up when you're cooking, and try to eat them all in one piece!
This recipe is our adaptation of the traditional dish. We included a variety of kid-friendly Asian veggies like snow peas, napa cabbage, and bean sprouts, and left out the black mushrooms at the request of my daughter, who helped shop for the ingredients. Feel free to vary the ingredients depending on your family's preferences. Our kids both asked for seconds (and ate the vegetables and chicken, not just the noodles).
Join the celebrated Kronos Quartet on Sunday, February 7, for Around the World with Kronos and Friends, a family-friendly celebration of Lunar New Year, featuring Kronos performing with special guests from musical traditions around the globe. Guest performers include Vietnam-born dàn tranh player Vân-Ánh Võ, UK-born multi-instrumentalist David Coulter, and Malian balafon player Fodé Lassana Diabaté, with a lion dance performed by San Francisco’s own Chung Ngai Dance Troupe, whicj has been part of the Bay Area’s cultural landscape for 50 years as a proponent of Chinese performing arts.
The concert, part of the Kronos Festival 2016, takes place in the Robert N. Miner Auditorium at SFJAZZ Center. Before the concert, the VA’V Young Ensemble, directed by Vân-Ánh Võ, will perform in the Fisher Family Lobby. The ensemble features students from San Francisco, San Jose, and Fremont playing traditional Vietnamese instruments, and performing a selection of Vietnamese folk songs, medleys, arrangements of pop music, and more.
Next month, the Year of the Ram comes to an end and the Year of the Monkey begins! Chinese New Year or the Lunar New Year takes starts on Monday, February 8.
As with many major holidays, there's plenty of family fun to be found in Marin County and all over the San Francisco Bay Area, ranging from a Chinese New Year Festival at the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito on Monday, February 15 to the big blowout Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco on Saturday, February 20.
Here are a dozen fun family Chinese New Year events not to miss in the Bay Area:
Chinese New Year, the Year of the Sheep, started on February 19. We always decorate the house with some Chinese New Year crafts, like these cute lanterns. They're easy and fun to make, and make great playdate, school, or scout group activities. They'll also be perfect to have on hand while you watch the San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade on Saturday, March 7.
Here's what you'll need to make your paper lanterns:
Construction or other heavy colored paper (red is a traditional color for Chinese New Year)
Glue, glitter, stickers, markers, paint, sequins, and other things to decorate your lantern
Chinese New Year is coming up at the end of January, and it just so happens that we received a review copy of the fantastic Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts by author, illustrator, and teacher Jennifer DeCristoforo. This colorful, 136-page book is a perfect way for kids to learn about Chinese culture, and to have a lot of fun as they do it!
Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts is filled with over 100 fun projects that introduce children to Chinese culture and traditional fine arts. It includes projects relating to Chinese New Year and other festivals and holidays, Chinese folk toys and games, traditional performance and dance, and more. There are literally days' worth of projects in here to keep kids occupied, and activities range in skill level to fairly advanced (that is, Mom and Dad may have to lend a hand).
When our review copy showed up in the mail, my kids immediately claimed it and started looking through it to see what kinds of crafts they could create. They got out the scissors, stapler, glue, and construction paper and created the neat mini-lantern garland (on pages 98–99 in the book and pictured below) that we used to decorate the house.
Chinese New Year takes place this year on January 31, and one way you can get ready for the Year of the Horse is by reading Oliver Chin's Tales from the Chinese Zodiac series, The Year of the Horse (Immedium, 2014). This is the ninth book in this series by Chin, a local San Francisco writer and dad, and tells the story of the young horse Hannah, a boy named Tom, and a brave journey they undertake.
Look for cameo appearances by other animals from the Chinese Zodiac along the way!
The Year of the Horse tells a charming story and introduces kids to Chinese culture and art. It also offers message about friendship, bravery, and accomplishment. The illustrations, again by illustrator and cartoon character designer Jennifer Wood (who's done work for Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network), are delightful and infuse The Year of the Horse with a lot of appeal and charm. Both my children love the book and keep reading it over and over again.
The Year of the Horse is a great storytime choice for Chinese New Year, or any time at all, for that matter, and it's sure to become one of your favorite Chinese New Year books. Other books in Chin's Chinese zodiac series include The Year of the Snake (2013), The Year of the Dragon (2012), The Year of the Rabbit (2011), The Year of the Tiger (2010), The Year of the Ox (2009), The Year of the Rat (2008), The Year of the Pig (2007), and The Year of the Dog (2006).