5 easy ways to celebrate the Chinese New Year, chocolate rats, bacon, and a button story (7 Quick Takes)

~1~

When the ball fell in Times Square at midnight and 2020 began, we toasted each other and fell into bed.

Chinese New Year, which starts Jan. 25 this year, is a totally different story. We usually celebrate multiple times. We feast on Chinese food, give our children traditional red envelopes with money inside, and decorate our house.

We also make a big fuss over the animal of the year. 2020 is the Year of the Rat, so we will celebrate all things rats and mice.

If you’re looking for a way to celebrate, here are a few simple things you can do:

  1. Order Chinese food. It’s especially lucky—and delicious—to eat dumplings (which represent wealth) and long noodles (for a long life) to kick off the new year.
  2. Wear red. Red is a lucky color in China, and we can usually find something red to wear for the Chinese New Year.
  3. Celebrate the animal of the year. Who doesn’t want to see Ratatouille again or rediscover the life lessons Templeton offers in Charlotte’s Web? Because we are celebrating rats, I tried to talk my family into building a huge maze in the yard using stakes and caution tape. I failed. But you might have better luck.
  4. Clean your house. The trick with this one is that you are supposed to do it before the new year begins. After that you have to wait a bit, or you will sweep the good luck away. I love any excuse not to clean—not that you ever need an excuse.
  5. Spend time with family and friends. People in China travel miles to be with the people they love. We will celebrate with many of the people we love over the next few weeks.

~2~

As part of the Chinese New Year fun here, I’ve been making chocolate rats—or maybe I should say, “rat-shaped chocolates.” They’re so very cute. And they’re chocolate.

I made a few that are white just for fun, but they’re not nearly as appealing to me. I like my chocolate brown.

One of the children suggested that we should make some that are gray, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that.

~3~

When I opened the candy mold for the rats, I read the instructions and noticed that chocolate is apparently a vegetable.

O frabjous day!

Up is down, left is right, and chocolate is a vegetable.

What a world!

~4~

Last week when I had a flat tire, I borrowed a car from my father. When I returned it to him, I tried to thank him profusely, and he acted like it was no big deal.

Then, as we were saying goodbye, he said, “Wait a minute. Where’s my bowl?”

“Your bowl?” I said. “Your bowl?” And then I remembered. I had also borrowed a bowl for the drive home because one of the children wasn’t feeling well, and I didn’t want to leave a mess in the car. I had completely forgotten about the bowl.

It turns out that the bowl is one of my parents’ favorites. They use it all the time.

I think I could have held onto the car for a week without any issue, but not returning the bowl was poor form.

~5~

My husband does so much around the house—all the laundry and all the yardwork and lots of taking care of things around our home. He even painted and installed a flyswatter display rack for me this week.

The other day I rushed out the door, almost late for school with our son, to discover that John had scraped my windshield as he was leaving for work. It was such a simple act of love, but I was so very touched. The big things are important. But the little gestures are so meaningful.

~6~

I had seen a post about the best ways to cook bacon, and one of the top two ways was to cook it on parchment paper in the oven.

I tried it last weekend when we were supposed to have a day of snow and ice, and all the bacon lovers liked it.

I’m not sure there are wrong ways to cook bacon, but this was a good way.

Here is the recipe.

~7~

I lost a button on my winter coat months ago and finally replaced it over the Christmas break. Then I took our boys out for a quick lunch, took my coat off, and a different button on it went flying off—and hit a child at the next table.

I apologized, but I felt terribly guilty. Then I felt even stranger about crawling under the table to get the button. But my sixth grader went over and found it.

Maybe my next coat will have a zipper instead.

Read more quick takes at Jen’s blog, Meditatio, and happy new year! Xin nian kuai le! Gung hay fat choy!

Rita Buettner

Rita Buettner

Rita Buettner is a wife, working mother and author of the Catholic Review's Open Window blog. She and her husband adopted their two sons from China, and Rita often writes about topics concerning adoption, family and faith.

Rita also writes The Domestic Church, a featured column in the Catholic Review. Her writing has been honored by the Catholic Press Association, the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association and the Associated Church Press.