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Chinese New Year's Dinner Party Etiquette

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This is not truly 'Houndish so I hope the Thread Gods will please understand. I didn't know where else to ask and am betting many of you will be able to help me.

I have been honored with an invitation to a small dinner gathering on the 14th, Chinese New Year?s. I did a bit of research and am wondering if the following would be proper w/o being presumptous: a small bouquet of red flowers for the hostess and a red envelope with a piece of chocolate for her and all attending.

Would this show respect for their culture and thank them or would I be being rude?

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  1. I'm Chinese. The red flowers are not a bad idea if you have them in a vase so that the hostess does not have to go hunt for a vase before dinner, but I wouldn't do the red envelope unless you are at least a generation higher than the hostess. Red envelopes are traditionally given from seniors to junior, e.g. grandparents or parents to a child, or parents' friend to a child. Maybe you could just bring a box of chocolates?

    9 Replies
    1. re: browniebaker

      The hostess and her husband and I are of the same generation, just a year or so a part.

      A box of chocolates is doable. Do I give them to the hostess or do I use them as my part of the celebration and offer to evereyone?

      I will contact a florist to see if I can get mums - no white! - as I know mums are a favorite of the Chinese. Will make sure to include vase.

      It is very important to me to do this correctly as this woman understands how excited I get and how much I enjoy immersing myself in different cultures. I want to be a part but do not want to be The Ugly American.

      I'm unemployed and so don't have much money, but is there something else I should maybe do that would be more appreopreiate?

      I really really appreciate your help!

      1. re: green56

        Instead of expensive chocolates, if you can obtain oranges or tangerines with the stem and leaves attached. It's a traditional gift.

        1. re: fourunder

          Oh, dear. That's a tuffy in MN, no matter the time of year let alone winter. If I could afford it, would a small ornamental orange tree be fitting? Or a box of Clemintines?

          1. re: green56

            It's the thought of the gift from where I come from.....so I would say yes, it's thoughtful and appropriate. If you type in a search on Google, Chinese New Year and oranges, you will see more information and traditions.

            Around my parts, any Asian market usually carries them for the Chinese New Year. If there is an Asian community or Chinatown in your area, street vendors will also sell them.

            http://www.unitednoodles.com/catalog2...

            1. re: fourunder

              Hhhuuummmm... we have a very large Hmong population in Saint Paul. And I did Google Chinese stores and one particular Oriental store came up.

              I will check with them to see about the oranges.

              Then I would do bright mums for the hostess and oranges to hand out to all attending.

              I am so excited about this. I have no hope of ever going to China and am so thankful these kind people are opening their home, hearts and culture to me.

              1. re: green56

                I like your ideas for the bright mums and the oranges. May I suggest that you give the oranges just to your hostess and not to the other guests? If the other guests have not brought gifts to share with everyone, they might feel awkward if you pass around gifts.

                1. re: browniebaker

                  Oh, my. I never thoight of that. Glad you said something. That would be verey rude.

                  1. re: browniebaker

                    You're a gem and a jewel and I'm glad I heeded your xcellent, and very correct, suggestion. It all went down perfectly.

                    Xie xie.

          2. re: green56

            Give the gift to the host. Let her decide on what to do with it.

        2. Any thing red is good, especially a red or pink bouquet.
          I don't know if your Chinese hosts are very traditional people. If they are, do not freak out if they do not clean up much after dinner. Don't laugh. One is not supposed to clean up on New Year's Day.
          I agree with browniebaker re red envelope. It is traditionally given to an unmarried youngster.
          Traditionally one eats hairy seaweed, oyster, pig tongue. They all rhyme with auspicious happenings. Have fun.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Parigi

            We are having home-made dumplings. Pot stickers?

            I will not be offended or put off at all if there is no clean up immediately. I come from a large extended family and we would sit arounf the table for hours chatting and catching up duringg the holidays after the meal.

            I have since found out since my original post it's during the afternoon (2:00 PM) on New YearLs Eve. Do I change my behavior in any way? Do I offer to help [with anything] or not?

            Would little confetti poppers be appropriate?

            I really appreciate all your help, immensely. I will be the only non-Chinese there. I am so honored and thrilled with the invite!

            1. re: green56

              No confetti poppers. Sweeping is extremely bad luck during the New Year Celebration. Who wants to live with confetti lying around the house for the entire day?

              1. re: KTinNYC

                Thank you!

              2. re: green56

                On the other hand, being aware of the tradition of not cleaning up immediately, don't feel funny if your hostess does clean up immediately. My family was never very traditional or superstitious, and we broke all the rules! I would offer to help if it seemed appropriate (e.g., no housekeeper doing the job, an informal setting, etc.), but understand that offers usually are rejected the first time around. You have to repeat an offer to be sincere, yet you don't want to be pushy if the hostess really wants you to sit down and not help, so you walk a fine line, LOL. Chinese manners can be hard to navigate. Having grown up in the U.S., I never know whether my Chinese-American host is following American manners or Chinese manners -- "Does she really mean no, and should I keep pressing my offer?" <<Aaarrrgh!>>

                1. re: browniebaker

                  I will just be honest with her - she has always appreciated that - and let her know I do not want to offend, but I want to be a good guest and help if that is appropriate. She will understand from whence I come. I really appreciate your input; it's helpful.

            2. No need to give red envelop to those of the same generation. Chocolate is always welcome. Red daisies, red wine would be good also. Wear bright colors.

              5 Replies
              1. re: PeterL

                Yes! I remember about the bright colors! Thank you for the reminder. I have a Madras jacket that is every hue and color of the rainbow and is quite bright and cheerful. It will work perfectly!

                1. re: green56

                  hmmmm - madras, this time of year?

                2. re: PeterL

                  I never said a word as I didn't want to embarass and/or offend my host and hostess and the other guests - or myself! - but I was the only one in bright colors! But I gotta tell'ya I was laughing at myself big time! While I was clad in blue jeans, as everyone else was, everyone else was dressed to the hilt in layers of tees and sweatshirts - all dark! LOL! The young lady was the exception.

                  However, I would have been miserable layered up like that as I get so hot so easily. I keep my heat on 67... so my light weight jacket was perfect for the - to me - overly warm temp in the house.

                  But, I was laughing at myself the whole time. And in retrospect I would have dressed just as I did. It was the right thing to do.

                  1. re: green56

                    Don't feel bad. When we watched the Chinese New Year celebrations on the Chinese TV stations, the audience was about 1/2 dressed drab; and 1/2 dressed red. In China, no less.

                    For the record, I wore a red silk shirt yesterday.

                    1. re: shaogo

                      My friends got up at 6:00 AM and watched. :) Very cool , that.

                3. I'm pretty sure my hostess is Mandarin.

                  Could you guys please phonetically spell for me:

                  Please, Thank You, Happy New Year, and I'm pleased (or hornored) to meet you?

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: green56

                    Just Googled "audio Chinese phrases" and got websites that do a better job than I could and have audio, such as http://www.travelblog.org/World/chine....

                    1. re: green56

                      I'm pretty sure your hostess is not Mandarin, but she might _speak_ Mandarin. ;)

                      You already know "gong hee fat choy", right? That's _not_ Mandarin, but if you go around telling people that at the party, you'll get a lot of smiles/laughs, and they'll teach you the "correct" pronunciation as you go along.

                      Which brings me to my more general advice: Save some of your questions for the day of the event, and ask them directly to your fellow party-goers. They'll be happy to share with you, it will add to the festive conversation, and I think they'll be less freaked out than if you walk in the door acting like you've been celebrating Chinese New Year every year since you were born. (Yes, I think if you go around handing everyone an orange and saying "honored to meet you" in Mandarin, they will be freaked out.)

                      1. re: DeppityDawg

                        You make a good point even if you do say it in a way that is hurtful.

                        I have learned to speak some phrases in Arabic that tickle the smoke shop folks no end, and I try and speak only Spanish when eating at my neighborhood Mexican restaurant. In both situations I have been thanked warmly and profusely for my attempts. It makes them feel good I try. And I get a kick out of them being so tickled at such a small gesture.

                        There is no way these people will think I have been celebrating New Year's all my life. And there is no way I'm walking in totally green w/o giving some prior thought to THEIR culture. These are good people that are inviting me into their home and wanting to share their food and culture with me. I am going to do my homework (somewhat) beforehand to honor them. They will appreciate it and my actions will speak my gratitude and thanks.

                        1. re: green56

                          I think you'll be a lovely guest, your heartfelt efforts much appreciated. Enjoy the dinner party. I'd love to hear all about it! Happy new year!

                          1. re: browniebaker

                            (((((Brownie)))))

                            I will report back and will keep count of how many times I bean someone with part of a dumpling flying off my chopsticks! :) Looking forward to learning that. That will be fun.

                            I know about shoeless so will make sure I have on clean socks w/o holes.

                            I want to thank all of you for sharing this with me. I so appreciate all of your input and your help in making me a better guest. I'm so glad I posted here - your savy and cheering me on makes me feel I'm going with a group of friends. Thank you all.

                        2. re: DeppityDawg

                          Because this is not about me, but about them. It behooves me to do what I can to show my understanding and appreciativeness for our likes/differences. I am a better and more enriched, educated person for my effort(s) that I have thoroughly loved going to. I get to go to China w/o ever leaving Saint Paul and am thankful for the opportunity.

                          1. re: DeppityDawg

                            I got the most fascinating education regarding the standard dialect used. And no, no one would have freaked out if I had spoken Mandarin as that is the 'universal' dialect of China. All the young people said they begin learning Mandarin AND English in primary grades - the young man from Hong Kong at AGE THREE - AT THE SAME TIME! I could not wrap my mind around anyone learning a different dialect, plus a foreign language at the same time.

                            I was slack-jawed. How amazing to me. To the young man from HK, just natural and the way it is.

                            I shake my head. The guy at the smoke shop speaks 8 LANGUAGES! And here I am... Stuttering my way through baby phrases in a couple languages. I feel so bad and not a good world person. This is why I do go out of my way to try and learn something in othersL language.

                        3. Happy Year of the Tiger! And it happens to fall on Valentine's Day too.

                          1. I love your heart. I love your spirit and open-mind. Continue to be real and to be honest; I am thinking that is the basis of your friendship that resulted in this invitation. I am envious!

                            When I am at the grocery that is all Asian at New years I see presentation fancy and nice tins of chocolate and really nice cookies.

                            In similar situations, I have found asking honest questions of "Tell me . I want to learn!' history, meaning, family traditions etc..made great conversations at the party.

                            Enjoy!!!!

                            Enjoy and report back here!

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Quine

                              Thank you for your kind words! I think it only fair that if they [whomever] have come to "my" country and learned English, the very least I can do is learn some phrases in their native tongue. And, like I said, it's my way of visiting another country w/o a passport.

                              I think you're correct in your supposition on why I was invited. The hostess is my landlord but we are close in age and educational background. I have helped her understand some of the ins and outs of being a landlord. She is a good and caring person.

                              I just can't put into words what it means to me to have been invited. I am so thrilled and can't wait! How kind and generous to include this non-person into their circle! I will be full of questions, but will have to remember to mind my manners and not monopolize the conversation with them. Some quiet from me with a huge grin on my face will do nicely.

                              1. re: green56

                                Are you up on chopstick etiquette? Search chowhound if not. ;)

                                1. re: Quine

                                  Oh, dear not in the least. I was just going to watch, copy as I can and ask for help.

                                  Really, wouldn't that be the best way to go? I have some stress as it is being the lone person out and doing what I can to just walk in the door respectfully and in an honoring fashion. Hostess gifts transcend all cultures; chopstick etiquette may be pushing it.

                            2. If you take flowers, try and get something long lasting, as it is luckier (and no white flowers!!!). Gladiolas that are just starting to open at the bottom are very popular because the way the stem of flowers open gradually upward to the top flower is very lucky.

                              1. Are you sure that this is going to be a "traditional" gathering and that the hosts even follow the old traditions? I'm Chinese American, and we have people over for a New Years party, and it's just a gathering of people (all races/backgrounds) that sit around and eat. We eat dumplings and tangerines, but also drink beer and grill up some hamburgers if the weather is nice. A well meaning individual that showed up with red envelopes for everyone (which is not really proper) and ran around attempting to speak Chinese would be very unusual, and not particularly well recieved.

                                Sometimes, well intentioned non-Chinese people do a bunch of web research and try to emulate old traditions that the hosts have no interest in perpetuating. In some ways, it is offensive, because of the assumption that everyone from a Chinese background is the same and that an entire culture can be distilled down into a set of instructions obtained from Google. I'm not saying that you're doing this, but consider your hosts and don't feel obligated to pretend you're Chinese for the day. No need to "respect the culture" (as if there is one single homogenous culture), just be a lovely, sociable, respectful guest.

                                Imagine the uproar if you decided to show up at a predominantly African-American gathering bringing a watermelon and fried chicken. And then explaining it by saying that you did some research on the web and that "you're respecting the culture".

                                Just be yourself. Your hosts like you and enjoy your company. This is not a sociological exhibit. We're Asians/Asian-Americans. Not Martians.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: chococat

                                  My goodness… if my reply above was "hurtful", the OP is going to need medical attention after reading yours… But I think your opinion brings some much-needed balance to this discussion. It's clear to me that green56 is a tremendously thoughtful person with the best intentions, and I would hate to see his/her enthusiasm backfire. There are definitely people who would not appreciate being "honored" just for being Chinese on February 14. I guess that's their problem, but I would still take it into consideration.

                                  I actually thought the red envelope idea was funny (just for the hostess, of course, not one for each guest, and you'd have to say _right away_ that it doesn't contain money, otherwise it would be awkward). But on second thought, since the hostess is green56's landlord, this is probably just inappropriate. Depends on everyone's degree of familiarity and sense of humor.

                                2. I think what chococat and DeppityDawg are saying is that it's admirable that you're as sensitive to your hostess' cultural context, but there comes a point where you may overdo it and make your hostess feel uncomfortable. I think a small gift of flowers (red or pink, but definitely not white, as others have also suggested) or tangerines/oranges w/ stem and leaf still attached would be sufficient. Then as the evening progresses, ask a few questions (remembering that it's not an interrogation, either!), perhaps about how they celebrate CNY in the US vs. at 'home', or the meanings of certain dishes or customs. Of course, the *way* you ask is just as important... my F-I-L once asked me (after I'd slaved all afternoon on a multi-course Chinese meal), "Why in the world don't the Chinese use forks and knives? They're civilized enough...why still use chopsticks?" (I nearly threw him out of the house.)

                                  Just showing genuine interest will show respect for the culture.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: ricepad

                                    This type of discussion has surfaced before on the site-- sometimes Asian/ Asian-Americans can get a little tired of being viewed as cultural curiousities. Some of us have been here for generations and are as assimilated as anyone else, and it gets very tiresome to be reminded constantly that we don't "belong" here, and that we're "different". Sometimes people get agitated when we don't behave like Google says we're "supposed to". Even folks that are recent immigrants get tired of being asked about "home"... for many, home is now the USA!

                                    Well meaning, sensitive folks have made some well intentioned comments to me out of genuine curiousity-- things like "Are you going back when you're done with school?" (what, back to Chicago?) , "your English is SO GOOD!" (I should hope so, I've been in the USA all my life), and "what do your people do with apples?" (umm... eat them?)...very LOUDLY and s.l.o.w.l.y. It's not horribly offensive, and just because I generally answer politely, does not mean I'm "tickled" at your interest. It's annoying.

                                    I guess the bottom line is that nobody likes to be profiled based on their appearance, whether the impression is positive or negative. Don't assume that you know how somebody will behave, or what they do or don't believe, or what their dinner party will be like just because they come from a certain part of the world. Just go to the party and have a great time and just be your wonderful self.

                                    1. re: chococat

                                      True dat, but I think the context you suggest is not the one here. The OP is being invited to a Chinese home to share in their CNY celebrations - I think it'd be perfectly acceptable to inquire about customs. OTOH, the "sitting on the floor" comments (below) threw me for a loop!

                                  2. No red envelopes.

                                    No gifts for the other guests.

                                    Ideal gifts for the hostess:
                                    -a box of fruit (anything round is good, esp. tangerines or oranges)
                                    -a fortune or "fa cai" tree (better than flowers)
                                    -a box of Chinese long life buns "壽包"

                                    1. By qualification, my wife's from Taiwan (my folks were German). I had to laugh when I saw chocolat's words of pain: '"Are you going back when you're done with school?" (what, back to Chicago?)' People have asked my wife if she's "going back" when we retire from the restaurant business. (We're not. My wife likes this country just fine, thank you.) My favorite prying, annoying question is "what does [insert my wife's first name] *mean*?" It doesn't "mean" anything. It's just her name. (They expect me to answer something like "lovely wind" or "pretty flower." Sure, there're Chinese women named lovely wind and pretty flower. And there are American women named "Constance" and "Hope" -- but not all of our names have a "meaning.")

                                      And this is the essence of the friction between well-meaning non-Chinese and the Chinese: "Sometimes people get agitated when we don't behave like Google says we're 'supposed to.'" It's a most peculiar thing to be told that I'm doing something "culturally inappropriate" by someone who's entire connection with Chinese culture is having studied it from books, and perhaps a visit or two (usually many years ago). One of my customers insists that when my Chinese employees eat cheese they're doing it just to make *me* happy -- he insists that cheese is culturally reviled by the Chinese for historical reasons. No. There's a higher incidence of lactose intolerance among the Chinese. And those of my employees who're *not* lactose intolerant will tell you that they think cheese is yummy.

                                      The OP, I'm sure, wants to avoid doing anything that would make the hostess or her guests uncomfortable. Therefore it's indeed a good idea to review things like chopsticks etiquette. It's hard for persons raised with American table etiquette to grasp that a person who slurps their soup loudly directly from a bowl cupped in the hands and belches loudly at table will nonetheless recoil in horror if you plunge your chopsticks straight down into your rice bowl and leave them there (or bring white flowers into a home not mourning a loss).

                                      I would suggest that the OP give a hostess gift that's culturally appropriate -- for the OP. Wine, chocolates or expensive pastry are all fine. If the OP insists on demonstrating cultural sensitivity, then okay, a box of the oranges with the stems/leaves attached (the OP will be able to find these in St. Paul around the holiday, I guarantee you). Don't try to buy New Year's Cakes (each family has their own favorite type). And here're a few other random musings on this subject:

                                      Red envelopes (hong bao) are a no-no if you're not Chinese. There is the potential for a million gaffes here. I still don't use them except for gift-giving to my little nieces and nephew and for my employees.

                                      Some of my friends of Chinese descent don't adhere to the practice of not sweeping/cleaning on New Year's. Because they're clean freaks.

                                      Wearing bright colors on New Year's Day is another custom that's not wide-spread in Chinese communities in the U.S. A warning to the OP: if you dress in your favorite Madras sport coat you'll not only be the only Caucasian at the party. You'll be the only person wearing Madras at the party. (Unless one of your hostess's guests shops at Brooks Brothers or J. Crew AND forgets it's after Labor Day.)

                                      1. People have made some good points about the offense that one may feel when another person focuses on one's "otherness" rather than our commonalities. As a Chinese-American I have experienced the annoyance when an acquaintance takes the few, little things he has heard about Chinese culture and expects me to behave a certain way.

                                        Any guest in the home of a friend who is [ethnic]-American has to walk a fine line between the friend's otherness and the friend's sameness. Perhaps the most gracious guest is one who enters a house without assumptions and keeps an open mind. There are surely enough commonalities among all the cultures of the world as to what it takes to be a polite guest.

                                        18 Replies
                                        1. re: browniebaker

                                          So nicely put. You are gifted in your thinking and expression of those thoughts.

                                          In my defence I'm focusing on the hoilday. These people are not native American Chinese (as their daughter is) but are Chinese Americans; the husband speaks very little English. They have, in some point in their lives, been very traditional. I know this because she has explained to me about a situation where she did not want a person to "turn and walk away from her face." I may not have that 100% verbatim but those of you that need to understand, will.

                                          This is not just a dinner where I'm bringing "water melon and fried chicken," but a specific hoilday that's being celebrated and it is into that spirit I'm trying to join. What I'm doing is no different than she learning to sing Auld Lange Syne in English and arriving woth a bottle of sparklie and confetti poppers. If she showed up with oranges and red flowers I'd be confused. Would think she was thoughtful, but I wouldn't get it. I was invited to a New Year's dinner get-to-gether, a very specific named celebration. I was not just invited for dinner.

                                          I will do the redish flowers in a small, personal bouquet, with some type of oranges. And I am confident my hostess will be happy that I *tried*. She and I both know I don't know squat, but it is the effort one puts out in trying to understand. They will be very pleased I acknowledged a holiday I don't normally celebrate and thought enough of them to make their holiday special to me.

                                          I am going to assume somethings because I have a history with these people. I'm not going to assume I have to sit on the floor and/or eat with chopsticks. I'd like both, but that's not realistic.

                                          I know whatever I do to acknowledge a holiday that is not normal for me to celebrate will be greeted happily and with joy. Else I never would have posted here looking for the best way to to it. I would have been The Ugly American, ignored what is important to them and chared in with the expextations of my needs and wants needing to be met to keep me comfortable at dinner.

                                          ILm happy. And very excited. I know my hostess will realize the minute she opens the door to me that I am happy to be there and that will make her happy. What better gift to give your hostess?

                                          1. re: green56

                                            Good for you green56. You are going in with a great attitude and I'm sure you'll have a great time but I'm curious why you think Chinese people sit on the floor.

                                            1. re: KTinNYC

                                              I'm sorry. Did I put my foot in my mouth again, or just change feet? When eating, I meant. Stupid of me to even say that as I'm sure they have a diningroom or kitchen table. But I think you may get my drift. Whatever they do will be *normal* and I will embrace as such.

                                              I do know the dumplings are a big family tradition for them. I'm drooling in anticipation. My hostess has said she will teach me to make then.

                                              Please forgive me if I offended, as that was not my intent.

                                              1. re: green56

                                                It's not a general Chinese custom to sit on the floor (or even cushions on the floor) while eating... at least in the cities

                                                1. re: Blueicus

                                                  True, it's not a Chinese custom to sit on the floor or on floor cushions when eating (or at any time, actually). Maybe the OP is thinking of the Japanese custom of sitting on tatami mats?

                                                  The Chinese peoples (comprising five main ethnicities and other ones as well) are so ethnically, geographically, and culturally diverse that it's hard to generalize about "Chinese customs."

                                                  The OP referred in an earlier post about knowing to take off her shoes at her hostess's house this coming weekend, and I let that pass without comment because maybe her hostess has made reference to taking off shoes in her house. However, while we are on the subject of Chinese customs, I'd like to point out that it is not a traditiional Chinese practice to take off shoes before entering a house. The Han Chinese (a major ethnic group) traditionally wore shoes in the house. The Chinese in Taiwan have, since the Japanese colonialization of Taiwan in the late 1800s, absorbed some Japanese customs and they tend to take off their shoes. But my parents, who are ethnic Han and were born and raised in Taiwan but live in the US now, choose not to have people remove their shoes in the house.

                                                  I find I just never can assume anything about what customs a Chinese or Chinese-American friend follows.

                                                  1. re: browniebaker

                                                    That's certainly true, China is large and diverse and it would be wrong to try and codify "Chinese Custom" anymore than one would codify "Indian Custom" or European Custom. My Hong Kong family (and all their friends) don't wear shoes in the house, and we take them off in a contained area outside the main door. That appears to be a common custom in that area.

                                                    1. re: browniebaker

                                                      She and her husband leave their shoes at the door every time the come in. I have told them that is not necessary, but they always do it. So my assumption is I will be required to do the same at their house.

                                                      1. re: green56

                                                        You are such an excellent guest: after your dinner with your Chinese friends, will you come to Paris to my Chinese New Year dinner?

                                                        1. re: Parigi

                                                          Bless you. You make me laugh!

                                                          Were I rich vs. unemployed, I would joyfully fly to Paris and celebrate with you. Unfortunately my wardrobe is so not Parisian and I do not know Parisian/Chinese customs.

                                                          But I would come, in my happy, cheerful jacket and bring you a bouquet and oranges and let you teach me the rest.

                                                          The last time I was in Paris was 1974... To return - for any/anyone's celebration - would be a reason to celebrate indeed.

                                                          I will think of you on the 14th and toast you.

                                                          1. re: green56

                                                            Deal, green!
                                                            On the many opinions on customs, I did say in my first reply: "I don't know if your Chinese hosts are very traditional people"...
                                                            It is true that I have seen vastly varying degrees of how New Year traditions are observed or not observed.
                                                            It seems they are especially observed in the Chinatowns in southeast Asia, and in comparison less so in HK or Taiwan or mainland China.
                                                            I don't think being Han or not makes that much difference. Han covers such a large area, so many provinces. The cultural variations are too great.
                                                            I will never forget in one Chinese restaurant on New Year Day, the waiter cleaned up minimally between two tables of diners, and actually swept much of the dinner remnants onto the floor. Whoa, it got quite unacceptable in that courtyard in the tropical heat. I will say no further, except that I had never had such a good meal in such a dirty place.
                                                            Back to Paris. Here at home I always change to slippers. When I visit Asian friends I also always take off shoes. I do not impose this rule on my non-Asian friends. Some of them do ask me if they should, and I always say it depends on whatever makes them comfortable. And I mean it (but if you point a gun at me to force me to say yes or no shoes, i'd say no).
                                                            Once for a traditional Chinese dinner I allowed myself to drop a hint to my guests that they should wear socks with no holes. One witty French friend asked: "what about my undewear?"
                                                            This week before D Day, am scrambling to get a haircut (très big deal pre-new year) and must clean apartment - and wash hair - thoroughly on 13th. On 14th the apartment can't be clean and I can't wash my hair.
                                                            Have a great dinner and come back to report !

                                                            1. re: Parigi

                                                              I am happy to report neither clean socks or clean undies had holes... did I do good? LOL! :)

                                                        2. re: green56

                                                          Probably not required. We have friends who do not take their shoes off, it's OK. Most of our Asian friends do though, and that's appreciated.

                                                          1. re: green56

                                                            I'd probably take my cue from whether there are any shoes by their door when you enter. My parents who, as I said, do not have guests take off their shoes when they host, do take off their shoes or offer to at other Chinese friends' houses, just to be polite. Maybe your landlord and her husband take off their shoes at your house to be polite but keep their shoes on at home. It's possible.

                                                          2. re: browniebaker

                                                            Your last para, Brownie, says it all. I went in with somewhat too flowery xpectations but it worked out. The gathering was not as old school, traditional, or Eastern as I had assumed, but it all worked as I was just thrilled to be a part of their culture and whatever they showed me I wasa greatful for. Still, as Westernized as it was it was so exotic and beautiful to me.

                                                            I had to eat all my food out of a bowl, and you know? It didn't get all mixed up and ishy. I did notice I was the only one cutting their portions with the spoon, but... well... Old habits are hard to break. No one seemed to care and it allowed me to handle the food in the chop sticks better.

                                                            Everything was perfect. It only could have been better if had been different. And that would have been perfect. It was going to be just as good as I went into it. And it was fun, xciting, simulating, relaxing, and I got to make new friends and learn better some people I was becoming friends with.

                                                        3. re: green56

                                                          Seriously. Chinese people have couches and chairs and dining tables now. We even have toilets in our houses. And we don't eat our dogs. I know you are a nice person and mean well but don't believe everything you see in the movies.

                                                      2. re: green56

                                                        I like you!

                                                        1. re: green56

                                                          Go and have a good time, green56. I would have you as a guest at my place anytime.

                                                          [from one of those of the tribe that removes shoes and - sometimes - eats on the floor].

                                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                            Thank you, sir! Had a great time and await your invite. :)

                                                      3. I must admit to a little cultural insensitivity myself at this point.

                                                        I *assumed* that because the OP is from the midwest, her hostess and her family would be thoroughly "Americanized" by now. The hostess's husband does not speak English fluently. This puts a whole new spin on things and I must apologize.

                                                        Perhaps the party the OP will attend is indeed going to be quite "old-school" authentic (and I hate to use that word "authentic" but am at a loss for a better one right now). I get the feeling I under-estimated the hostess's gesture.

                                                        Suffice it to say that I'd been speaking Chinese (Mandarin) for five years before I was invited to any celebration as important as a New Year banquet by any of my Chinese friends. The OP is very, very lucky to be invited to this party. Her plans for gifts are perfect; these folks, I'm sure, will also graciously accept -- and return many times over -- her gift of friendship.

                                                        1. I think you've already decided on tangerines but if not, you could also bring Ferrero Rocher chocolate wrapped in gold. They come in nice boxes, too.

                                                          19 Replies
                                                          1. re: chowser

                                                            That's a really good idea, thanks. I'll have that as a back-up idea. I am, for some reason, really taken with the 'living' gifts of oranges/flowers. Maybe because of the snow and cold; they just seem so warm and bright and cheerful. But I like the idea of the gold paper.

                                                            Thanks!

                                                            1. re: green56

                                                              Oranges are traditional gifts, but I am really surprised that everyone thinks cut flowers are a good idea. Growing up, all the Chinese New Year floral stuff I really saw being given as gifts was living - particularly narcissus bulbs forced in dishes of water (my favorite) and lucky bamboo (also in water). I never really saw cut flowers at my family's gatherings (because cut flowers are dead), but maybe that was just us. In Hawaii it's also really common to give a tray of a bunch of different types of dried, candied fruits or boxes of almond cookies.

                                                              Why not just ask the hosts? If you called them and told them "I am so excited about coming to your Chinese New Year party. What sorts of gifts or attire is customary?" They may tell you no gifts, but if you ask them generally what is done rather than what you should do, they'd probably give you a better sense of their custom, right?

                                                              1. re: akq

                                                                No, I don't think the OP's Chinese hosts, if they are as traditionally Chinese as she has described, would describe to her what gifts would be appropriate, That would be tantamount to asking for a gift. Chinese manners would be to say no, don't bring anything.

                                                                1. re: browniebaker

                                                                  I agree that if he asks what he should give they would say no gifts. But, if he's asking about the "customary" practice, I think they'd describe it. The hosts are inviting OP to their celebration and they have to be anticipating introducing him to customs and answering questions.

                                                                  1. re: akq

                                                                    I disagree. I think she would "go Western" and say nothing should be brought.

                                                                    I really think a small bouquet and oranges/tangerines will show her that I care for her and her heredity. That she and all she is is important to me.

                                                                    1. re: green56

                                                                      Well, it was just a thought. Have fun!

                                                                  2. re: browniebaker

                                                                    She would be very embarassed, Brownie. I would never ever think to ask. It would offend her as if I were asking how to pay for my dinner.

                                                                    The way I'm going about it, she will be pleased, embarassed (in the good way), and happy that I care for her as her, not as how the 'world' thinks she should be. Know what I mean? She already knows how I cherish and appreciate the ethnic diversity - that's huge - in Saint Paul, and she will be tickled .

                                                                    I am happy. I will surprise her and she will be happy I put some thought into my attending. She will know I care about who she is and not the woman Americans feels she needs to be. She's just fine the way she is.

                                                                    1. re: green56

                                                                      I'm so glad that you've decided what to bring and are looking forward to the party, and that you've not let some parts of this thread get you down. It is indeed an honor to be invited to their house for the new year celebration, and you will surely return the honor. Just enjoy!

                                                                      1. re: browniebaker

                                                                        I entend, Sweetie, to enjoy and have a good time! I'm so excited! Scared, too, but I think as long as I mind my manners and am honest about my intentions and ignorance.... I think I will be otay.

                                                                        I really am really scared. There is so much I don't know. And assumptions can be good or bad.

                                                                        But if they could extend an invite to a total rube, there must be some nervousness on their part, no?

                                                                        So I just need to be open, kind and respectful - as I think they will be - and it will go well.

                                                                        Bless all you helpful people for your ideas, suggestions, input and help. I really appreciate it.

                                                                        1. re: green56

                                                                          Why on earth would you be scared? Would you expect a guest you invite into your home for, say Christmas, to know every aspect of the holiday? No, you are a host and you make your guest feel at home and they will do the same for you.

                                                                          They are Chinese not Martians, Don't make so many assumptions and go with the flow.

                                                                          1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                            And why would they be nervous? This overthinking is getting silly. Gung Hay Fot Choy to all!

                                                                          2. re: green56

                                                                            If you had a friend from another country and invited them to Thanksgiving dinner, would you be nervous about it? I think I'm just excited to share. Similarly, I'd hope my friend would not be nervous or scared about doing the "right" thing because the only right thing is to be open and appreciative as you are.

                                                                            LOL, just don't dump a whole bottle of soy sauce on her "special" dish that she modestly proclaims to isn't that good.:-)

                                                                            1. re: chowser

                                                                              Yeah, I would be nervous. But you're right. But... The traditional Chinese have strict (not meant in a bad way) protocol and traditions that are, honestly, very foriegn to me. They're not bad or wrong - just something I don't know. So it's important to me to be open to their ways and not offend them or embarass myself. I do think some slack will be affordrd me, but I'd like to arrive with some understanding of their culture so that they understand that they and their culture are important to me and that I think they are fine just the way they are. Westernized? Fine. More traditional? Fine. They are who they are and just perfect the way they are.

                                                                              I would be less nervous with Mexican, German, Swedish, British, etc, I've more of a handle on Western cultures for a guest here or me attending.

                                                                              I will not drown anything in soy sauce. LOL! But I hope she has the sauce for dumplings made with soy sauce - I can drink that stuff I love it so much! No. I will not, just sayin'.

                                                                              1. re: green56

                                                                                Yes, within the culture there is definitely, as with other cultures, right and wrong. But, as with all cultures, there's understanding for someone who's not familiar with it. I'm not offended when someone doesn't understand my culture and does the "wrong" thing at my house. I can't remember the show but there was an old comedy where the foreigner did the wrong thing. People raised eyebrows and the hostess said, "That's how I like to do it, too" and followed. It is nice, though, that you are concerned and don't want to offend. As raised eye brows go, pass on putting butter or soy sauce on the rice. Just sayin'. :-) As with all cultures, sincere compliments go a long way.

                                                                                1. re: chowser

                                                                                  I'm laughing so hard! No BUTTER on my rice!

                                                                                  Yikes!

                                                                                  Seriously, thanks for the heads-up as I would have - if it were on the table.

                                                                                  1. re: green56

                                                                                    Please let us know how it works out.

                                                                                    1. re: green56

                                                                                      Would you really have added butter? Maybe here's a good place to mention the general rule that no soy sauce or other sauce or condiment should be added to your rice or to any dish that is cooked in a sauce. The idea is that the cook has reasoned the dish properly.

                                                                                      Soy sauce and other sauces are appropriate for dipping or spooning onto foods not already in a sauce, such as dumplings, and even pepper shrimp.

                                                                                      Salt and pepper are not usually provided at the table, and they are never requested. Again, the idea is that the cook has seasoned the dish properly.

                                                                                      Hope this helps.

                                                                                      1. re: green56

                                                                                        Well, shoyu on rifce is equally repulsive as butter on rice.

                                                                                        [insert sideways grinning moron icon here to indicate also laughing]

                                                                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                          Gee, you mean you're, like, joking?
                                                                                          (Insert Duh expression)

                                                                  3. Xie Xie to all of you for your help. I had a wonderful time!

                                                                    I had gotten there a little early and asked if I could help and was told no. I waited a little bit and when I got the same answer I didn't pursue the issue.

                                                                    It was we three older people and three students from the U of M. Very gracious, intelligent, well-rounded, interesting young people - we never ran out of fun stuff to talk about. One young man was from Hong Kong and the young lady was from a small town near the Terracota Soldiers town. The other young man spent three years in MI studying before coming to MN.

                                                                    He, from MI, taught me Xie Xie in that it's pronounced "she-a she-a" and not the "shing-shing" I had been hearing. We all laughed about that! The young lady taught me to spell it. I told them of me asking about bring red envelopes and we all just roared! The young man from Hong Kong, bless his sweet dear heart, said,"you could have brought them with blessings in them." What a sweetheart.

                                                                    The meal lasted 2 hours and was so delightful, relaxing and enjoyable. There was no rice so I had no worries there! :) We had dumplings, beef, two kinds of fish, a beef and pepper stir fry and a pork and broccoli stir fry. Everything was eaten out of a small bowl using spoons and/ or chopsticks. I mostly used my spoon but did use the chopsticks off and on. I'm happy to say no one got beaned nor did any of my food hit the tabletop or the floor. After the mainish meal people were getting these bowles of whitish liquid. I asked if I could have just a bit and I take a slurp (as that's what they were doing) and then just kind'a looked around the table. The young lady said. "It's dumpling soup and has no flavor." "Oh! Okay. I was wondering," and grinned. She started laughing and said, "I was watching you while you tasted it to see the look on your face." We all got another great laugh out of that. It seems it's tradition after the main to eat the dumpling water and it's believed to aid in digestion. I ate every single one of my slurps.

                                                                    So my hostess asks me why does she make dumplings? I said, "I don't know. Why do you?" She said she didn't know but that it had alwaus been tradition in her family and she figured I'd know since I was the one that did all the studying. This broke us all up and we couldn't quit laughing. No one knew about the tangerines with the leaves/stems either. We came to the concencus the dumplings are like turkey at Thanksgiving and that that's just the way it's supposed to be.

                                                                    Cleanup happened just before dessert and everyone helped. Just took the dishes into the kitchen.

                                                                    I stopped at an Asian grocery on the way and got some tangerines with stems and leaves. I had to ask for help from a Hmong trio. The gentleman spoke English and assured me the tangerines were perfectly fine even though they were so squishy soft. He opened one for me to try and they were delicious! That was so nice of them to help. My hostess peeled every one (6) and that was our dessert.

                                                                    Most of the time, unless I was asking a question or answering one, I sat there and just enjoyed listening to them talk in Chinese. I never once felt put upon or they were being rude. I really enjoyed just watching and listening. I learned how to say Hi or Nice to meet you, and Happy New Year, but can't remember them. They're kind'a hard.

                                                                    I got lucky bambo in a vase vs. cut flowers as someone had mentioned cut flowers were 'dead' and something live might be more appropriate. My hostess was thrilled with both the name and that no one had ever given her bambo before.

                                                                    I had the best time, never once felt uncomfortable or out of place and thoroughly enjoyed everyone's company. Great food, great company. Very very nice time.

                                                                    Thank you all for your help, ideas and suggestions. I really appreciate it.

                                                                    19 Replies
                                                                    1. re: green56

                                                                      Wow, that sounds like a fabuloius party! Thank you so much for taking us 'hounds there with you through your post. Reading it brought a smile to my face the whole time, and I absolutely cracked up laughing when you said "no one got beaned"!

                                                                      You were the perfectly gracious and charming guest. What a wonderful, warm gathering of friends. The perfect start to the new year!

                                                                      1. re: browniebaker

                                                                        Thanks for all your gentle guidance, patience, understanding and not ragging on me but REALLY understanding and giving of your knowledge.

                                                                        Not that you said it, but no, they weren't Martians - none of them were born in this country - they were just really fascinating, interesting, fun Chinese that allowed me into their private world and I loved every minute of it. I never, at any time felt alien - just like I couldn't hear well. Know what I mean? Most times I just felt like a deaf aunt. At one pont in their conversation I got "animal husbandary" in English and said so. So they reverted to English and come to find out I could contribute to the conversation as the young lady is in Food Sciences and we all were able to discuss the cheese the U makes and I have purchased from time to time.

                                                                        Great people with a foot in two different worlds and they melded both worlds with aplomb and grace.

                                                                        It was the best. I had the pleasure of being immursed in China, but not really. And they seemed comfy. It was so wonderful.

                                                                        Even though I thanked my hostess during the meal and as I left, I sent her an email once I was home thanking her for such a great time.

                                                                        Now I just need to figure out a way to enginere a way to get us there again! LOL!

                                                                        Xie Xie, Brownie. Hugs.

                                                                        1. re: browniebaker

                                                                          (((Brownie))). You were a great help and a gentle mentor. Xie xie for your help and generous heart.

                                                                        2. re: green56

                                                                          I am so delighted you had such a wonderful time! Sounds like a wonderful time was had by all. I love that your hosts asked you why they made dumplings! I am also glad that some of the er snippy answers here did not dampen your excitement and wonder .

                                                                          You might want to return the honor and host a "typical american celebration" Easter might be fun with the dyed eggs and egg hunt or 4th of July.

                                                                          1. re: Quine

                                                                            I am poor - out of a job - and have no room to host.... But I do have ideas brewing about maybe asking my landlord to host something if I bring the goodies.

                                                                            She said that at "this time of year [New Year's]" the big family comes together. She took in these college kids that have no family here - and me. Who has no family whatsoever. It was all I could do to not bawl my head off as I GOT her bigger family meaning. Her only child is like in LA, the state.

                                                                            I took from the great here - bless you. The rest... I'm better then they are.

                                                                            Xie Xie, Quine!

                                                                            1. re: green56

                                                                              Greenie, xie xie ni for your kind words to me and for sharing your happy new year's eve with me! Your beautiful spirit as a guest who was eager to do the right thing at a Chinese party made it my pleasure to help with any questions you had. And reading your report of the party last night really made my day! I'm so happy everyone at the party had a joyful time. Sounds like you have made some great friends.

                                                                              As a single (unmarried) person, you would not be expected by your Chinese hosts to reciprocate with a dinner party in kind, even if you are the same generation as your hosts. In traditional Chinese etiquette, never-married persons are considered youngsters and are not expected to host parties for the marrieds. Strange but true!

                                                                              I grew up in the US and always thought it was strange that never-married men of age 45 were called "boys"in Chinese and never-married girls were called "girls." But mom explained to me that a person is not considered an adult until married.

                                                                              Indeed, I have a first cousin once removed (called a nephew in Chinese because he is one generation below me) who is only nine years younger than I, yet for years and years while he was single, he was always my guest and never treated me back, even to a restaurant dinner. Then, lo and behlold, he married and started inviting me to his house for dinner, like a real adult -- LOL.

                                                                              What does a "youngster" like you do to reciprocate your hosts' hospitality? You're simply not expected to. You can give nice hostess gifts or other little gifts on appropriate occasions. You might think to try to invite them to an inexpensive, casual restaurant lunch or dinner and try to pay, but don't be surprised if they grab the check and pay, as would be expected of them as marrieds under Chinese etiquette, and then you would probably feel bad for having invited them to a meal they had to pay for. No, I think I would just reciprocate with kindnesses, favors, and other acts of friendship. I think you sound like a wondefrul friend.

                                                                              1. re: browniebaker

                                                                                Am I considered an adult if I'm divorved?

                                                                                I simply cannot afford to treat them to dinner out at this point. I'm one of the millions hit by this horrible economy. But I think I can swing small things from time to time.

                                                                                It's also nice to 'meet' new friends on the 'Net, Brownie. :)

                                                                                1. re: green56

                                                                                  It's hard to say whether a divorced person has adult social obligations under traditional Chinese etiquette, for there was no divorce traditionally. But I was a divorced woman for about four years, and I think I was considered outside the social pale --LOL! I certainly would not have been expected to give dinner parties for married friends. I think only couples give dinner parties.

                                                                                  Since the question of dinner parties is mooted for you by current, economic reality, I would do just as you have suggested: offer small (meaningful rather than costly) gifts from time to time in gratitude for their parties. Or offer to bring a dish to their parties. Or even suggesting that one of their parties be a potluck so that all can contribute. I think if you are not employed right now, your friends will surely understand.

                                                                                  1. re: browniebaker

                                                                                    One nice reciprocating gesture would be to return a gift for the next holiday, a gift that would reflect your own culture or American culture. Sth for St Patrick? An easter present? A homemade pumpkin pie for next Thanxgiving, if the longish wait is not an issue?

                                                                                    1. re: Parigi

                                                                                      I will have to think on this, Parigi. Figure out just the right thing. Thanks for your suggestions.

                                                                                    2. re: browniebaker

                                                                                      I am all over the potluck idea! I live for potlucks! :)

                                                                                  2. re: browniebaker

                                                                                    I have so enjoyed your education and insight into Chinese culture. It's been like reading a good book and has been beautiful. Really fun for me and eye-opening. I've learned a lot and have had fun sharing 'you.' I don't think you're a Martian, but you are different enuff to appreciate - and it's so interesting!

                                                                                    Fun fun learning!

                                                                              2. re: green56

                                                                                Very rich report, xie xie.
                                                                                It is always a great privilege to have a cross-cultural experience like that, where all the cultural meaning can be decoded and all the laughs shared, in a common language.
                                                                                I was once in a Thanksgiving dinner attended by many young Chinese, and we laughed until we cried explaining the pilgrims and turkey etc. And everyone took turns to get up to thank someone or something.

                                                                                Green, seems your dinner took place on New Year's Eve and not on New Year (Sunday, today). -- Makes a big difference in the traditional customs.

                                                                                The soup story was funny. A French lawyer friend told me that once he attended a banquet in Guangzhou on a business trip and was dipping his hands in the finger bowl when his host frowning told him it was the soup.

                                                                                The significance of the family for the New Year's Eve dinner is indeed very important. I have a Chinese friend who, for Thanxgiving or Chinese New year, always tells her daughter attending U Penn to round up all the strays - students too far away from home - to have a dinner at home together.

                                                                                Yes making dumpling together is a big tradition - rather from northern China. It is great fun kind of bonding. Before dinner, people form a conveyor belt of production. The more experienced people are assigned to knead the dough or even shape the individual outer shell. The least experienced - usually my husband - ends up being handed a lump of dough that he punches flat before passing it down.
                                                                                When you hear overseas Chinese of northern origin talk about the dumpling experience, the part of making it together is just as important as - if not more so than - the eating part. Even people who normally don't cook can make dumpling and love the preparation-bonding, sort of like a party before the party.

                                                                                Yesterday I hosted a small New Year's Eve dinner for non-Chinese friends (part of the reason why I have been very much interested in this thead). The dumplings - one must must must serve dumplings - were bought from a special source; they were "customized", MSG-free. 3 types: vegetarian, chives and shrimp, pork. We also had oyster deep fry and other things. Oyster is another typical new year dish.
                                                                                My guests did not take off their shoes as I did not ask them to. I even told them that they not have to use chopsticks if they were not comfortable with the use.
                                                                                They thought it was hopelessly funny that I had to have dirty hair today (14th, Sunday, new year day).
                                                                                For dessert we also had Maltese oranges and clementines with leafed stems. Tough for me too, to try to round those up from my local Tunisian grocer.
                                                                                The tricky thing for me was, after the guests departed, to rush around and clean the kitchen and jump into a bath and esp wash my hair well (as I can't do so on NYday), all within an hour - before midnight.
                                                                                And everybody, Happy Chinese New Year, Year of the Tabby!

                                                                                1. re: Parigi

                                                                                  Here's my toast to you, Parigi! Xie xie.

                                                                                  I bet you your guests had as great a timew as I did. Sounds like you threw a great party. I'm drooling hearing about the oysters. Is there any significance in seafood being served? I notice we both had some.

                                                                                  There was vinegar served to go with the dumplings. I think it was mixed with soy sauce. Being a big vinegar lover, I really enjoued it. It was good on all the food served.

                                                                                  Happy New Year to everyone!

                                                                                  1. re: Parigi

                                                                                    The young gentleman from Hong Kong was a stray. He is in his first semester at the U and had no one here to spend the hoilday with. This is something very easy for me to understand as this was also the standard procedure for my family at Thanksgiving and Christmas as I was growing up. And I guess I was also a stray, not having any family myself. It was win-win for all. :)

                                                                                    1. re: green56

                                                                                      Yes oyster is a traditional dish for the new year, as I had explained in my 1st reply. It rhymes with "good stuff".
                                                                                      And yes the traditional dip for northern dumplings is a rice vinegar based sauce, about 2 part vinegar and 1 part soy sauce. -- I also sank some shallot flakes in my dip.
                                                                                      Thank you, my guests did have a good time. They stayed 4 hours, from 7pm to 11pm. It is always nice when guests stay a long time. Means they feel comfortable. Also explains why I had to rush around afterwards to clean kitchen and self !

                                                                                      1. re: Parigi

                                                                                        I can see you rushing to bathe. But you know what? I'd rather have a dirty-haired, kinda'a sweaty Parigi today rhan no Parigi today.

                                                                                        Bottom line, it's the heart, soul and brain. I'm happy for you though you could relax today and not worry about bringing in the New Year.

                                                                                        Me? Poop. The New Year isn't looking too auspicious but for yesterday. Wish I'd known sooner about bathing, et al.

                                                                                        Oh, well. Tomorrow I will back pedal. Maybe the gods will be kind and generous since I'm new to this.

                                                                                        So glad you had a great party. Should I ever win the lottery, I'll let you know and make sure to pack holeless socks and panties. :)

                                                                                        Happy New Year to you. May you be richly blessed this coming year.

                                                                                  2. re: green56

                                                                                    Thanks for the followup! it sounds like a good time was had by all. Lucky bamboo is nice and lasts forever but are low maintenance (can't beat plants like that). As inviting them back goes, it's not necessary, especially if they're aware of your financial situation. You could, if you want, make something for them, banana bread or something but again, I think they were just looking for your company. A thank you card is always nice, especially expressing what you did to us--what a great time you had, what a wonderful learning experience it all way, how good the food was, etc. As I said before, sincere compliments go a lot way.:-)

                                                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                                                      Even though I thanked them during and as I was leaving, I sent an email of thanks once I got home. Not a Hallmark, but I think it was okay. Just a sign of the times.

                                                                                      She looovvveeeddd the bamboo, saying she'd always seen it, meant to buy some but hadn't yet. :)

                                                                                      And I now have her recipe for the dumplings! Will probably take some time to make them as well as she does but it will be a yummy fun time!