Gong xi fa cai! Today we welcome the “Year Of The Rabbit” and a two week long Chinese New Year celebration. So when it came time to celebrate my sweet baby boy Chase’s first birthday, my husband cleverly suggested that we enjoy all that Chinese New Year has to offer: delicious Chinese Dim Sum, tasty Chinese sweets and a themed cocktail party for our close family and friends.
With the hustle and bustle of the holidays consuming me, I gave the amazing Kelly of WH Hostess a mere two weeks to execute and assemble my vision for a modern, bamboo themed first birthday party that would involve red rabbits! She was a trooper and of course exceeded my expectations by custom creating a yellow bamboo pattern we could carry throughout the party and her paper goods.
I’ve been known to spend a small fortune on parties so as a promise to my husband and our wallets, I worked hard to keep the costs down. First stop was LA’s Chinatown. It’s amazing what you can negotiate! I picked up everything from inexpensive paper lanterns to little toy drums, fans and kid-friendly chopsticks for the favor bags.
Catered Dim Sum was a delicious way to keep my adult guests intrigued. The kids were kept happy munching on potstickers and eggrolls but best of all, it’s a low maintenance meal that I could simply steam and serve. Clean up was a breeze since guest enjoyed eating their finger foods with chopsticks out of Chinese take out boxes.
I had the most fun with the sweets bar however. I transformed my dinning room to make room for guests. We went with authentic Chinese goodies and candies such as Moon Cakes, Sesame Balls, Wintermelon Cakes, Lychee Candy, Haw Flakes, Candied Water Chestnuts and more!
Of course, I could not forget to include the popular Magnolia cupcakes and their famous banana pudding. The birthday cake was red velvet and adorned with red and yellow fondant shaped fortune cookies. Vanilla sugar cookies with lemon frosting by Angela from Queen of Tarts Cakes tied in the entire presentation thanks to her edible wafers designed to match my invitations.
One of my favorite DIY projects was creating the backdrop for the dessert table. I often wonder how the party pros create such lovely backdrops for their photo shoots (and what does the top of the backdrop really look like?). I honed in on my nursery design skills and decided I could save a couple hundred bucks by stretching my own canvases. Kelly sent me her bamboo print in a file that I had turned into canvas at Uprinting.com.After a quick visit to the art supply store, I stretched the canvases on canvas bars. I now have permanent wall art and hip graphic prints I can enjoy year round!
Because the party from held from 5pm-7pm, the children arrived in their PJ’s or “Mandarin Suits”. The big kids watched “Mulan” and “Kung-fu Panda” while making Chinese paper lantern crafts. Adults sipped on fun beverages thanks to a fully stocked bar. And what one year old party is complete without a signature drink or two? Burning Mandarin Martinis were hot but I think I had one too many Lychee infused champagne cocktails myself!
In the Chinese New Year tradition, guest went home with additional favors such as Mandarin oranges for luck, take out containers filled with candies and a lucky red envelope from the decorative centerpiece to ward off evil spirits!
This just goes to show, that ANY theme can be translated into a party for your wee one. So while the kids enjoyed the toys and organized activities, it was important for me that the adults could enjoy too! After all, aren’t I the one that survived the first year of sleepless nights, breast feeding and diaper changes? Cheers with a Lychee martini from me! XO, M
PS: Now if this posting has but you in the mood for Chinese tonight, I suggest hopping on over to my mother’s cooking blog, The All-American Chinese Cookbook. We’ll be highlighting some fun recipes to help you celebrate!