Hosting a Chinese New Year party or dinner for your friends and family takes a bit of planning. Once you’ve taken care of the guest list and catering – the most important elements of the event, no doubt – you’ll want to focus on transforming your space into one that guests will feel comfortable in, and, with any luck, one that they’ll remember fondly for years to come. Here are three tips on how to create the right ambience for that to happen.
Plan the space
If your party isn’t a formal, sit-down dinner, then a large dining space isn’t going to cut it. What you need is a variety of seating areas to cater to the natural social dynamics. Think about it: it’s quite rare to find a group of 10 or 12 people clustered in a circle chatting. What’s more common are groups of twos, threes and fours, so your seating arrangement needs to reflect that.
Unless you entertain on a regular basis, your home probably isn’t always setup for such gatherings. Fret not: simply rearrange the furniture. Drape a tablecloth over your mahjong table, put that spare chair in your bedroom to use, and bust out those IKEA plastic stools. And while the temptation is to consolidate all the food in one area, it’s a good idea to spread the food and drinks out. This way, your guests have a chance to mingle.
Pro Tip: Invest in a bar cart so you (and/or your guests) can take the party wherever you (or they) go!
Set the Mood
Image Source: Rebecca Chan
To give your home a wow factor, consider having a single centrepiece or a cluster of centrepieces. This could be anything from traditional floral
arrangements or bowls filled with ornaments to trendy fairy lights in glass domes. When it comes to lighting, warm, ambient lights create the best moods. If your lights are equipped with dimmer switches, great This will allow you to change the mood as the night goes on. If not, use candles. After all, candlelight is extremely flattering – handy for all those selfies and wefies you’ll be taking. And you can use different candles for different areas: pillar or block candles to illuminate corners; votive candles to light corridors and windowsills; and thin taper candles to lend elegance to the dining table.
Music-wise, it’s important to mix things up so that your guests don’t get bored. Spend some time curating your playlist on Spotify. Include some classic festive fare, some contemporary interpretations, and, just for fun, some (non-Chinese New Year) retro or dance tunes. You know you’ve hit the mark when people start dancing or singing along.
Pro Tip: Nothing is more inviting than entering a home filled with lovely aromas. Consider lighting scented candles or simmering a pot of spices on your stove. Use ingredients like orange rinds, cinnamon sticks, cloves, vanilla pods, and star anise. Watch faces light up as guests enter!
Keep everyone entertained
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Once your party reaches a plateau – that’s when everyone’s had their fill of bak kwa and drink and the chatter has started to die down – it’s time to kick things up a notch. Get everyone nostalgic by bringing out mahjong, or classic board games like Monopoly and Scrabble. In the digital age, the analogue appeal of board games means they are as popular as ever. But not everyone will be interested. Creative types might be more drawn to craftwork, such as
making Chinese New Year decorations. Set up a craft station and encourage guests to make their own paper art. It’s great fun for all ages, especially kids.
Pro Tip: Speaking of kids, if your guests bring their young ones along, they’ll need to be entertained too. Set up a play area with toys, or an activity corner where children can, for example, decorate cookies or make their own Chinese New Year cards to bring home.
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