Two years ago my, then 6 year old, daughter asked me if she could have a Chinese-themed birthday party. Blame the Mandarin program at her school or blame me for making her continue Spanish so she could continue to translate for her mother during family get-togethers. This theme then began to travel to other parts of Asia, with origami paper cranes, fan dancing etc. So we decided to include Japan and Korea and I am so glad we did, as we both learned a lot and the party was a huge hit!
Decorations: We picked the theme early enough so I could buy the paper goods from the Chinese New Year section of the party store. We settled on the colors of red and gold. I also bought some paper dragon favors and paper lanterns. I strung the lanterns from the red crepe paper that criss-crossed the room. I set the table with a gold tablecloth, plates napkins and chopsticks. I made a runner on the table with some Korean newspapers with a center piece silk cherry blossoms and extra paper dragons.
My next stop was to the HMART in Little Ferry I picked up both Chinese and Korean treats, chopsticks and fans. I also found a bunch of free newspapers in the front of the store and figured I could use them on the table. I was also lucky enough to buy a traditional Korean dress called a hanbok for the whopping price of $7! My daughter was going to wear a red Chinese dress that she was in love with and wanted to include her out-of-town cousin.
We set the mood by playing some traditional Chinese music I download from iTunes.
Games: We started the party by playing the Chopstick Game while the girls arrived. Put equal amounts of small items such as marshmallows, marbles, popped popcorn, beads and of candies into two bowls and put two empty bowls across the room. Have the children form two lines when it is their turn have them hold the chopsticks and try to pick up on item and walk it across the room and put it in the empty bowl. If they drop their object just have them try and pick it up from the floor. The first team to get all of their items in their team’s bowl across the room wins. Encourage the kids that are better with chopsticks to grab the marbles and less experienced to grab the marshmallows.
My mother and I made buns for each girl’s hair and held them in place with a set of chopsticks. They all looked adorable.
The Cake: my mother outdid herself again by making panda bear cake. We bought this 3-d Wilton multi-purpose mold for my girly’s third birthday party when she chose a frog theme. The pan also makes bears and elves.
Station One Dumpling Making: Using a simple filling of minced pork, cabbage, scallions and grated ginger and using dumpling wrappers from East-West the girls filled their dumpling and sealed them by putting water on the edges. My brother had this great idea to have each group of girls make their dumplings different shapes (circles, squares and triangles) so they would know their own after they were cooked.
Station Two Sumi-e (Ink Painting): Grandpa had been taking sumi-e classes so he was the perfect person to instruct the young ladies. He started by giving each girl a bamboo paint brush, black ink and paper. He had iris, bamboo and other subject matter on the table (covered with newspaper) then he guided them on the techniques of the brush painting. Make sure all paintings are signed and have a place to lay them all out to dry.
Station Three Ribbon and Fan Dancing: I took thin dowel rods and tied strips of thin red ribbon to the ends of the dowels. I showed the girls a video of traditional Chinese ribbon dancing and then they had fun trying it spinning and twirling. We also watched a video of Korean fan dancing and I had a few fans for them to use. I let them each take their set of ribbon sticks home. In hindsight I would have bought long strips of silk and only made 3 sets of ribbons or ordered them from eBay so the girls could feel the full effect of the dance.
Food: We served the girls the boiled dumplings they made with a side order of lo mien noodles. The girls loved the food and there was very little left over.
Favors: I picked up traditional Chinese food take out boxes to hold the favors. We filled the boxes with Asian candies and put a red fan and paper
dragon on the outside for fun. Each girl also went home with a paper crane, a set of chopsticks,their paintings and ribbon sticks. You could also make gorgeous tsumami kanzashi hair ornaments or cherry blossom barrettes as favors.
One of the reasons this party was so fun and successful is we involved our family and their many talents without hiring out. Two years later I still have parents tell me their child still talks about this party!
Check of the slide show for more images:
Birthday party questions? Just Ask Holly in comments.