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Chinese Culture >> Chinese Society Traditions >> Lunar New Year Dinner party

Chinese New Year - A Great Idea For a Dinner Party

By: Indra Books

What a great theme for a party with not a lot of expense. Don’t be deterred by the fact that Chinese New Year is not always on a weekend. I know it is hard to believe but people actually socialize Sunday through Thursday nights too. A party doesn’t have to be on a weekend. Just keep it light and inviting.

What do you need? Friends, Food & Drink, Chinese Dishes & Chopsticks, Laterns or Luminaries, Party Favors

How to execute? (Remember our basic entertaining rule – always plan and have a list):

Guests: Make your guest list. We recommend that you keep the gathering small. 10 close friends who aren’t intimidated by a Wed night social event work well. However, when you have a small gathering it is important that every person attend so it doesn’t look like you have no shows. Make sure you get rsvps. If your friends are reliable email users, use and select the Chinese New Year themed invitation. If not, send out paper invitations 3 weeks in advance and follow up with a phone call.

Food: Find a local dim sum restaurant. Do not attempt this cooking yourself. If there isn’t one, use your local Chinese restaurant and order appetizers. Call ahead and ask them to fax you a menu or drop by and get one. While you are chatting, find out how far in advance they need the order and inquire about pickup vs delivery. Allow extra time if you are having it delivered.

Small Group (10-12 people): Choose 4-5 items and make sure you order enough pieces for each guest. Large Group: Choose 6-8 items and order the number of pieces as you have guests.

Order one or two sweet pastries using the same rule for number of pieces.

Beverage: If you are concerned about it being a “school night” even though we told you to get over that, serve Chinese tea. If not, serve Chinese beer or select one Asian influenced mixed drink. This is not the occasion to stock the full bar.

Supplies and Decorations: Take a trip to Chinatown and pick up chopsticks, dishes, cups, lanterns or luminaries and little party gifts for your guests. Don’t want to go to Chinatown, shop from the comfort of your computer (or call us of course). Pearl River Mart in NYC has everything you will need and you can shop via internet if you aren't in NYC. HOWEVER, make a list first. It is easy to get carried away and buy things you don’t need.

Lanterns range in price from $3 each up to $20. Make sure you have a place to hang them without starting a construction project. An alternative is a string of lights that have paper lantern globes on them. Luminaries are also great. Whatever you decide, you want candle or mood lighting for your party. Be creative but use Asian influences.

Chopsticks: Again, don’t get carried away. If you are not a regular chopstick user then don’t buy $5/pair sticks. You can get them in packs of 10 for $2.50 and they come in all different colors and shapes.

Tableware: If you are picking up the dim sum or appetizers right before the party, then you can serve them on platters/dishes or if the restaurant provided nice containers serve from the containers with chopsticks although we don’t recommend this method. If you are purchasing earlier in the day, you might want to invest in one or two tiered bamboo steamers. They run about $7 each. Otherwise, get some nice Chinese/Asian serving plates (square or oval).

Then you need dishes for your guests. This is very basic. Plates, tea cups if serving tea and dishes for sauces. Pearl River Mart has several different designs that come in melamine (approx $4/person for a whole set), which looks nice, doesn’t break and is dishwasher safe. It is less expensive than buying china or ceramic. However, if you eat a lot of Chinese food in a structured setting (take out on Sat night does not count) then you might want to invest in the real thing.

Favors for your Guests: This is Chinese New Year and not a regular dinner party so party favors are appropriate. Again, check out your local Asian stores for inexpensive trinkets. Again, it is CNY so ticky tacky gifts are OK. This is fun, not a gift to the visiting Ambassador from China. Put them in Asian style mini-gift bags or take away containers. Pearl River Mart has a whole section of CNY paraphernalia. I found a ton of Asian themed items for $1 each at Target a few months ago. You just never know where your party favors will be. Keep your eyes open.

The budget (112-195 if starting from scratch):
Decorations: $10-30
Tableware: $30-50
Beverage: $2-20
Food: $50-75
Gifts: $20

If you don’t want to spend that much on a party, here are some ways to cut the budget:

Find a paper store that sells square small plates in paper. Select a pattern that is plain red or black or select something in an Asian style.
Use Christmas lights instead of buying lanterns and luminaries
Make Origami paper gifts
Non-alcoholic beverages are always cheaper than alcohol

About the Author

Indra A Books, author of this and many other lifestyle articles is the owner and founder of ON THE GO 4 U, Personal Shoppers & Concierge Service in the Washington DC metropolitan area. The company’s creed is to provide its clients with the ultimate life management experience. In addition to its shopping and concierge services, ON THE GO 4 U also publishes a monthly e-zine and conducts workshops on wardrobe, entertaining and decorating. For more information about the author and ON THE Go 4 U, please visit