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New Traditions: Young Adults Welcome the Year of the Dragon with Dumpling-Making



By Claire Del Prete


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On the evening of February 9th, families from across the globe gathered at the dinner table to welcome in the new year at the stroke of midnight, hopeful that the Year of Dragon will bring them good fortune, health, and happiness. The Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year or Spring Festival, is a fifteen-day celebration that encourages billions of observers to travel from far and wide to break bread with loved ones. 


For many, last year’s celebration was the first family reunion since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic over four years ago. In 2024, festivities are back in full swing. In fact, China predicted a record-breaking 9 billion domestic trips during this year’s 40 day travel rush surrounding the holiday. Lunar New Year is a holiday of togetherness and reunion, and there’s no better way to bring people together than over a table filled with delicious food – in my lifetime, I have come to understand that the Chinese know this deeply. 


Over the 15-day celebration, many traditional dishes are eaten across the globe, and each culture has their own take on New Year delicacies. For example, in China, longevity noodles are lengthy noodles eaten whole during Lunar New Year, birthdays, and anniversaries to represent long life. Jiaozi, or dumplings, symbolize wealth for their resemblance to little money pouches and are eaten to usher in good fortune in the new year. 


This year, I am away from my Chinese family, most of which live in Northern and Central California. So, in my Los Angeles apartment, I will host a Lunar New Year Dumpling Making Party for my friends here in Southern California. Due to scheduling constraints, rather than holding the event on February 9th or 10th (the first days of the New Year and arguably the most important), the soirée will occur on February 24th in honor of the Lantern Festival, a final celebration observed on the fifteenth day of the first month in the Chinese calendar. As a fourth generation, half-Chinese-American girl in her twenties, I am excited to honor the New Year traditions that I grew up with, but with a modern twist. 


On the menu for this special night, we’ll start with refreshing lychee martinis and a grazing platter of seaweed crackers, nuts, and orange slices. While guests make their dumplings, I’ll prepare a side dish of chewy longevity noodles tossed in a spicy, herby sauce.   


Finally, the star of the show, the dumplings, will have two filling options: pork, shrimp, and Chinese chives for the omnivores and tofu and green garlic for the vegetarians. Since the holiday is all about wholeness and togetherness, I think it’s crucial to have a meal that everyone, including those with dietary restrictions, can enjoy. 


If I have the prep time, I plan to make half of each variety ahead of time in anticipation of the dilapidated, ill-shapen dumplings that some of my guests will inevitably create, especially after a lychee martini or two. Per Chinese New Year tradition, the jiaozi will be boiled, rather than pan-fred or steamed, and served with a ponzu dipping sauce. 


In place of tangyuan, we’ll have ice cream mochi for dessert. Traditionally eaten in observance of the Lantern Festival, Tangyuan are sweet mochi rice balls that are typically flavored with black sesame or red bean and served in a hot broth or syrup. 


After the dust clears and we finish our feast, I will freeze the leftover dumplings and send some goodie bags home with guests. Even as the lanterns dim and the festivities wind down all across the globe, the spirit of togetherness and tradition continues to resonate, reminding us that no matter where we are in the world, the bonds of family, culture, and celebration remain unbreakable.


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