The Bacon & Lox Chinese-ish New Year Celebration!
You can tell a lot about someone, their upbringing, what they consider home, and what they value by asking them, "What would you want for your last meal?" For me the answer is easy — I've always been a little bit obsessed with what you might call the "quintessential" Chinatown feast: the street food, the grand banquet halls, and the 8-course celebrations where everyone shares. Growing up part of a Chinese-American family in Hawaii, with my father and grandfather's recipes, coupled with the time I spent living in Shanghai and Taipei, gave me a deep appreciation for the many traditions associated with the Lunar New Year. And with the work I do now as a celebrant, I'm pretty well practiced in reimagining rituals for all kinds of creative celebration. These passions are always finding new ways to come together, and our annual Bacon & Lox Society Chinese-ish New Year is certainly one of them!
By calling our celebration the "Chinese-ish New Year," I feel like we gave ourselves an important creative freedom to pull together our favorite parts of the Lunar New Year festivities, without being forced to include the ones that don't quite speak to us. It also makes room for us to put our own spin on things (including adding a few elements that aren't Chinese at all!).
Crossing the Threshold
Our Chinese-ish New Year Celebration was to be the first event held at Promise Ridge after having our brand new Threshold installed, so Bacon & Lox Collective member Sarah Petryk adorned the Threshold with evergreens to mark the occasion while also maximizing good feng shui. As a celebrant, I love finding new ways to mark the start and end of a journey, so as you can imagine, I was thrilled with this new addition at Promise Ridge. And as a bonus — it was a valuable part of the Chinese-ish New Year celebration as well, helping us move symbolically into the new year.
Year of the Rooster
In the Chinese Zodiac, each year takes on the characteristics and traits of the animal assigned to that year. The animal assigned to the year in which you were born is traditionally said to indicate, to some degree, what kind of person you'll be in live (a conflict between your sign and the way you live your life is known as tai su or kai su).
My son Xavier was born during the year of the Golden Pig, which was projected to be an especially auspicious year. Believe it or not, many families in China went to great lengths to ensure that they would have their children during this year, even going so far as having C-sections to guarantee that their kids would have the best possible start to life.
Our Chinese-ish New Year incorporated symbols and colors associated with the auspicious Year of the Rooster, and Heather made sure that her designs infused every part of our celebration with meaning and intent.
Every single item on our menu was conceived and prepared to bring with it a larger sense of symbolism and meaning. From the Long Life Noodles and Heather's amazing Scallion Pancake Challah bar...to the Soup Dumplings (or Xiao Long Bao), Ahi Sashimi Salad, and more...we made sure to feast on foods that had a special sense of significance about them. Traditional teas represented longevity, while the custom macarons we created with Kitchen Chemistry were a tasty ode to the Year of the Rooster.
I personally enjoyed the weeks leading up to our Chinese-ish New Year celebration because it made for many trips to my favorite Asian grocery store in New Jersey, scouring the Internet and my Chinese cookbooks for my favorite dim sum recipes, and the delicious test runs that were a huge highlight around the kitchen table at home.
Another great thing about the Chinese-ish New Year soiree is that it takes place at the end of our "Christmas Tree Season" each year. We do quite a lot with our Christmas Tree, so it's fitting that we turn its disposal into a part of our annual New Year Celebration.
Guests were invited to bring objects they didn't need or want anymore to toss into the flames — anything from old clothes to items with painful memories attached went under those branches. The Christmas Tree bonfire is a powerful symbolic gesture of moving on and letting go, as all those unneeded memories went up in a great celebratory salvo: We loaded the tree with hundreds of firecrackers before lighting it, giving ourselves a visually exciting way to move out of the old year and into the new one.
One of the most meaningful new traditions we incorporated into our Chinese-ish New Year Celebration was called the "Shower of Blessings." We asked each of our friends and loved ones to bring their own vessel that would help them move into the New Year with some personal significance attached. Each guest filled their own tea cup with the symbolic ingredients from our Tray of Togetherness, symbolizing all the different hopes and aspirations we might hope to bring with us into the new year. Heather crafted cardlets with the meaning and significance of each different ingredient, and we all combined them to form statements of intent for the next twelve months.
Once we had filled our cups, we all stood under a transparent parasol and had them showered over us. The remnants were collected, so we could all literally take our intentions for the new year home with us.
Like the rest of our Chinese-ish New Year Celebration, it was the perfect way to move into the new year: with meaning and intention.