Culture / Entertainment

Your Guide to Chinese New Year 2021 — Red Envelopes, Great Food, and The Year of the Ox

How to Celebrate With Style in Dallas and Beyond

BY // 02.11.21

As PaperCity‘s resident expert on all things Chinese, I did my first little primer on Chinese New Year back in 2019. Oh how that feels like a lifetime ago.

The past 12 months have completely altered our ways of celebrating. Post February 2020, we weren’t congregating en masse in scary and/or seductive outfits on October 31, 2020. Nor were many of us gathering our extended family and friends together to feast on a 25 pound bird for Thanksgiving. Alas, most were finding that a Cornish hen or two would suffice.

So, my tips on enjoying Chinese New Year — this Friday, February 12 — are scaled down quite a bit.

Chinese New Year, commonly known as Lunar New Year, is a festival that celebrates the beginning of a new year under the traditional Chinese calendar. The first day of Chinese New Year begins on the new moon that appears between January 21 and February 20. The Chinese Zodiac is based on a 12-year cycle, with each year in that cycle relating to an animal sign. These signs are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. In 2021, the first day of the Lunar New Year will be this Friday, February 12. It will be the Year of the Ox.

Oxen are considered to be extremely responsible and hard workers. They rarely let themselves be stopped by any difficult situation put in front of them at their workplace. Oxen will find a way to motor through and are equal to any challenge. They are also known for their diligence and strength. All in all, oxen are generally very successful professionally. On the downside, they after often not forthcoming when they are upset and let their emotions become bottled up which makes for an explosive temper.

So, if you have a little one on the way, it sounds like they are in for good fortune, but may need a little bit of therapy down the road. I, personally, am a dog. For those curious, take a moment and check out what you are.

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If you are looking for some gifts for loved ones this holiday, the only way to go is the red envelope route. One of my earliest memories was receiving red envelopes with money from relatives on Chinese New Year. Inside was money — as a youngster, it was usually no more than $20. As I’ve gotten older the amount has gone up slightly. And yes, I just got my annual red envelope in the mail from my dad last week.

If you’re looking for things to do in celebration of Chinese New Year’s, the number one agenda item should be a great meal. Since I have a lot to say on the topic of Chinese food in Dallas/Fort Worth, I had written a piece on my favorites back in 2019. Unfortunately a few from that feature have closed, including Gung Ho, Five Sixty Restaurant, and Fine China (at the Statler Hotel).

However, two of my favorites have weathered the storm and are open for business. My favorite for takeout is still First Chinese Barbecue in Haltom City (just east of Fort Worth). You can get a whole duck, which you’ll also see hanging in the window (a scene reminiscent of Chinatown in San Francisco or New York City) and an order of house lo mein for a shareable feast with your pod.

You can also ask for a few of their placemats which feature the entire Chinese Zodiac. Use some chic blue and white porcelains and you’ll have a fabulously fun tablescape.

Fine China in downtown Dallas is unfortunately no longer with us, but there are still plenty of incredible spots to get your favorite Chinese dishes. (Photo by Kathy Tran)

Or, venture out to Kirin Court. Pre-COVID, if you showed up at this Richardson dim sum (China’s version of tapas) hotspot you might need to wait for close to half an hour for a table (sometimes a large one shared with others not from your party). I am guessing that they might be pretty packed on Friday, so maybe wait until next Monday or Tuesday and celebrate a little late this year.

It’s a true Chinatown like experience with the various dishes wheeled around the dining room. They stop at your table and you pick the ones you want from their push cart.

Kirin Court recently had a 15 minutes of fame moment a la reality TV. The newest Bravo Dallas housewife, Tiffany Moon, hosted a dim sum dinner for her cast mates at the restaurant. In true Housewives fashion, of course their was a little bit of drama that I’ll dub chicken-foot-gate. All due to Kameron Westcott’s unwillingness to try chicken feet.

Be sure to wear some red when celebrating. It’s the Chinese color for good luck, and can ward off spirits of bad fortune. For boys, no need to be crimson from head to toe. Perhaps just a pop of the color via a pair of Gucci’s red suede trimmed leather sneakers or Burberry’s red Landon TB logo hoodie sweatshirt. For girls, maybe go a little glam with Marni’s Poppy red leopard print long sleeve maxi dress.

And finally, be sure to pop on the classic and critically acclaimed Eat, Drink, Man, Woman. Ang Lee’s film depicting a master Chinese chef who prepares a magnificent meal each Sunday for his three unmarried daughters. A gorgeous film that will leave your mouth watering.

Happy Year of the Ox!

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