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Year of The Rabbit: Celebrating Chinese New Year in your Care Home

The Chinese Year of the Rabbit starts on 22 January and, according to Chinese culture, ushers in a time of prosperity, peace and longevity. Those born in the year of the Rabbit are said to possess such enviable personality traits as quick-wittedness, vigilance and ingenuity. Celebrations around Chinese New Year are usually brightly coloured and joyful. What better way is there, therefore, to chase away the January blues than planning a Chinese New Year party in your care home this month?

Chinese New Year celebrations traditionally go on for 16 days (although you don’t have to have your last that long!). They extend from Chinese New Year’s Eve, this year falling on 21 January, until the Chinese Lantern Festival on 5 February. Such a long party period gives rise to plenty of inspiration to make your own celebrations as authentic and fun as possible.

Decorations and preparations

As with many Chinese festivals, there are certain activities that are considered lucky – and unlucky – to complete during the Chinese New Year period. For example, cleaning the house thoroughly will encourage the very best possible start to the new year. After that, rooms are decorated with red lanterns and red-themed decorations. These would look stunning pout up around the care home to add a splash of colour during a wintery, dull and rainy month.

Senior family members traditionally prepare red envelopes filled with money to give to younger relatives. Why not get your residents to decorate red envelopes and add either some small change or chocolate coins to give to younger visitors or a local school or children’s charity?

Food and drink

Many Chinese people like to use the celebration to reunite with friends and family they have not seen for a while. Why not open up your festivities to visitors – family members and friends of residents, as well as suppliers, regular visitors, staff and their  relatives? Some traditional Chinese food ideas to help your catering teams prepare include dumplings, which are associated with wealth and longevity – dumplings must be arranged in a line on the plate or bowl to symbolise life going in in a certain direction, rather than round in circles.

Other choices could be spring rolls, niangao (sweet, sticky cakes with rice, sugar, chestnuts and lotus leaves), sweet rice balls (associated with reunion and being together with family) and noodles (longevity of life). Other favourites are steamed carp, catfish and chicken, plus fruit and vegetables such as bamboo shoots, poria mushrooms, seaweed and grapefruit. Popular drinks include rice wine, herbal teas, red wine and beer.

Entertainments and games

There are several games that are played at this time of year by people celebrating Chinese New Year that could work well in a care home setting. Majiang (also called Mah Jong) is a seated game involving tiles and resembling the Western game of rummy. Chinese poker is a popular playing cards option, with instructions readily available online. There is also Chinese chess – or you could opt for the standard version if you have a chess board and full set of pieces to hand.

Finally, many Chinese people love fortune telling, with several types of themed games and activities available, including palm reading, telling fortunes through playing cards and learning how to read tea leaves. Or, if you are looking for an alternative to playing games, look for Chinese themed films to play over the course of an afternoon, or put some Chinese music on in the background during mealtimes.

Rabbit, rabbit…

Another way to mark the occasion is to focus on the rabbit theme and run wild with it! Make ‘rabbit’s tails’ pompoms with wool and cardboard discs with our residents. Hold a wildlife sketching or painting session with photos or pictures of rabbits and hares to copy. Devise a quiz with answers all relating to rabbit facts or watch a wildlife documentary about our long-eared friends.

Continuing the visual theme, eat carrot cake while watching rabbit themed films, such as Wallace and Gromit: the Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Peter Rabbit, Zootopia, Watership Down or Who Framed Roger Rabbit?There are lots of films and TV programmes to choose from to make a quiet Sunday afternoon in the middle of Chinese New Year celebrations into a rabbit-themed cinematic fiesta.

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