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A Chinese New Year’s 1st Birthday: The Year Of The Rabbit

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 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!

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  1. avatar Melisa says:

    Talking Thirty,

    I made a quick stop in Chinatown to pick up the boys little outfits. Thanks for your sweet compliments!

  2. avatar Paula says:

    What a fabulous party! Great job, Melisa!

  3. Love how you carried the theme throughout but it wasn’t over done. Of course everything was beautifully presented, impeccable attention to detail. Looks like it was a blast and will have some great shots to always remember it by. Congrats.

  4. Thanks so much for sharing these ideas- what a wonderful idea for a birthday party and so original! I am so inspired to host a similar party for my little one (except that he wasn’t born around the lunar new year…hmmm… I’ll have to throw him a 6 month bday party instead!) Everything came out beautifully, and I LOVE that you had Haw Flakes! Immediately brought back fond memories of my childhood! Did you order his Chinese outfit online and if so, could you please share the link? Thanks!

  5. Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in reality was once a enjoyment account it. Glance advanced to more brought agreeable from you! By the way, how can we be in contact?

  6. […] my questions answered. Recent purchases include printed canvases to dress up a Chinese inspired dessert table and just yesterday I got word that 1000 PN postcards are in […]

  7. avatar Geneva says:

    I so love this! Happy 1st Chase! Mind you, Chase looks very adorable in that Chinese costume :)

    It’s great that you are so proud of your heritage and it helps that the Chinese are big on red, it made for a bold, bright and happy theme. All these dimsum and Chinese treats (what are Haw Flakes?!) makes me want to shout Ni Hao! I love that red envelop tree, isn’t that where they put money in too? For money gifts?

  8. avatar Melisa says:


    Thank you sooo much Alvin for the sweet compliments. So crazy, I did the same thing with my brother and the Haw Flakes growing up!!!

  9. avatar Leanne says:

    You are a GENIUS :) Unique, eye-catching, and very thoughtful. I love it that you gave your guests good luck tokens and symbols. Love the cupcakes too, even if they veered away from the Chinese New Year theme. I think having the kids watch Mulan and Kungfu Panda was a great touch too. I keep on looking for dancing dragons :)

  10. avatar Alvin says:


    GREAT looking party! It seemed really fun and VERY unique. Well, at least for those of us here. It’s been YEARS since I’ve ever been to something Chinese-y (and the last time was to a boring engagement party that was so stiff with a Chinese Taoist minister and gong-banging…)

    I totally miss those Chinese lanterns, moon cakes, and of course the Haw Flakes (loved those candies, as Chinese Catholics, my sisters and I used to pretend that it was the holy host they give at communions). We had them every Chinese New Year when I was growing up. I just didn’t think of using them for a birthday party, which is just in time because my little one has her birthday coming up this April!

    Those red envelops with the Chinese word for luck or prosperity for them, where did you get those? I’ve been looking for them too because I wanted to use them for my scrapbook, but haven’t found them even in our little Chinatown here.

    Thank you for the inspiration and the trip down memory lane. :)

    (PS. I love your combination fried rice recipe! A meal all in one indeed!)

  11. Jumping in a bounce house, yea, call me a kid.

  12. avatar Nicole says:

    As always a beautifully designed celebration! Loved the theme and the decor is fab. The sweets bar is spectacular, I’m assuming the adults hung out there all night – at least I know I would have! ;0)

  13. avatar Melisa says:

    Thanks Kelly! And as always a pleasure to work with you. You can make any idea a reality and best of all you put up with my short time lines. I don’t know how you do it all. A thousand thank yous! xo

  14. […] with a “Year Of The Rabbit” themed bash!  The full recap can be found on my blog Project Nursery but in the meantime here are some fun party pics showcasing the decorative details and […]

  15. Melisa – you always have a strong vision for your parties and an even stronger execution – this one was no different! You managed to take a unique theme and make it a party that guests young and old could enjoy. It was, as always, a pleasure to work with you! And most importantly, it looked like Chase had a FABULOUS time! Happy New Year!

  16. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Project Nursery, La Petite Magazine. La Petite Magazine said: Gorgeous decorations! RT @projectnursery: A Chinese New Year’s 1st Birthday: The Year Of The Rabbit: Gong xi fa cai! […]