I forgot to pick a category

Chinese Lantern Back-Story Post


Oh Hai! Are you looking for my post about the behind-the-scenes of the Chinese New Year Lantern post?


Why do I always promise things and then take days to deliver? I do not know. I apologize. Real life has been a bit hectic lately (as if the holidays and birthday-party planning weren’t crazy already but whatever). I’m just running behind. If I owe you an email, I’m sorry. My inbox is so overflowing I’m not even looking at it right now. I need an assistant.

my ever-present assistant

Somebody a little more helpful than my current assistant! Just kidding. She’s a great assistant.

So here’s the story:

My latest project for Alpha Mom sent me to the deepest darkest Asian Markets that Southern California has to offer. I’m so thankful I have a Taiwanese friend to translate for me. I would have had some great photos from that market we ventured to but the management put the slap-down on picture-taking two minutes after I walked into the store. I don’t know if the no-camera rule was because they believe taking pictures causes bad luck or if maybe there were some shady business dealings going on there they don’t want documented. I’m thinking maybe both.

I love visiting Asian markets. I feel like I’m visiting another country in the safety of my own. The hanging duck carcasses, packages of pigs’ ears, counters full of scary-looking ginseng roots…it all fascinates me. Show me to the cookie aisle and I’ll be happy for hours cataloging all the different kinds of Pocky there are. Orange Pocky! Milk Pocky, deep dark “Men’s” Pocky, Hello Kitty Pocky! Why don’t they sell these at Ralphs? That’s what I want to know.

Chinese New Year  "inspiration" clutter

After I had collected a basket full of “inspiration” I headed back home to dream up a Chinese New Year craft. The funny thing is that there are already tons of Chinese New Year crafts for children. Google it. What could I possibly come up with that is original and fun? The answer is not much. The Chinese have paper crafts down to an art and hardly need my help. In fact, it seems a little silly to make your own lantern when you can buy one that lights up, blinks, sings a pretty song and spins around for about 59 cents. I can’t beat that.

But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t inspired. My Taiwanese friend and I talked at length about customs and what brings good luck and bad luck. I find it strange that many of the Happy New Year wishes are about making money. There are all kinds of elaborate gold coin arrangements that people give to one another in the hope that they will bring better business to their friends and family members in the new year. They even pray for more money for each other.

Not that Americans love the dollar any less than the Chinese but we sort of try to pretend we don’t. Love of money is the root of all evil and all that. I find it very interesting that wishing for more money is not at all shameful or considered greedy in Chinese culture. In fact, the more gold you can slather on a greeting card, the better.

blowing out the fish lantern

I’m still coming off my distaste for all the clutter that goes along with Christmas so the thought of decorating my house with red and gold during January is a bit much for me, but I can appreciate the idea behind it. I don’t mean to dwell on money per se, but there is something to be said for wishing for practical prosperity for others. I wish peace and happiness and a sense of well-being of course…but I also wish for financial security for my friends and relatives. Maybe celebrating Chinese New Year could be a time to reflect on that. If only we could all give each other gold coins in red envelopes right now, we’d probably be a lot better off in the coming year.

Visiting foreign countries, foreign markets, talking about the tough topics with friends who come from a different culture is very good, I think. We may not embrace the different religious beliefs but that doesn’t mean we can’t take away some lessons from them.

down by the sea

When I was reading up on the Lantern Festival I was particularly taken with how it involves children. It is a time for being together as a family and being joyous. What’s more joyous than raising a lantern into the night sky? I picture full moons and children’s faces lit up by lantern-glow. It’s a very happy holiday. Optimism is always worth celebrating.

our girls

kids + glass lanterns + fire + standing on a wall...

I didn’t manage to take photos in moonlight like I wanted to but I did include the kids and they loved it. I sometimes feel guilty for using my daughter as a model on this blog but at the same time she gets to experience things that I wouldn’t otherwise include her in. She loved the lanterns, as did Annalie. I would never force them to pose for photos if they weren’t enjoying themselves. Sure, sometimes I prod them to smile or give them props that work into my storyline but I don’t think that’s any more painful than taking a school photo.

china girl shoes

lighting up the path

I’m thankful for this job that lets me make a little money and be a mom at the same time. I hope my assistants enjoy it too.


  • cc

    Hmmm. Maybe we can squeeze this into a small non-party next year.

    The girls definitely look like they had a good time. I especially love the goofy faces that are made during your crafts. But then, I love all of Bug’s faces.

  • kedge

    I grew up with Pocky! That and rice paper candy, sesame candy, bean paste candy, soy-BBQ corn on the cob, ling hi moi, mo-chi dumplings, 5-7-9 festivals. i am back in Japan when I go to asian markets!

  • lynne

    Interesting point regarding “money being the root of all evil”, from the way I was brought up to talk money was considered very bad manners. Being a freelancer I have struggled for years to ask and push for my worth from clients, to get enough back in respect to the long hours I put in. Maybe to live a creative life should be reward enough? But realistically I have a mortgage to pay. I wish all my friends in Blogland and outside of the computer “have enough” this year.

    Love the photos of the lanterns on the beach at dusk. Wish I was walking thie bare foot through the sand right now.

  • BeachMama

    We get Pocky at our local Supermarket! It’s great a small treat and the kids love it. I personally prefer the strawberry flavour but that is just me.

    I love your post. Although I have never celebrated Chinese New Year, my best girlfriend is Chinese and they do. I find it interesting that they come right out and say that they pray for money. I have never been one to do that, but there is nothing wrong with it.

    Wishing us all a year of prosperity and good health.

  • Angela @ Lost In Splendor

    These are gorgeous. I loved the behind the scenes info. I always love going to the city and going through all the various “worlds” that seem to have their own districts. It’s amazing.

    The photos are lovely. I will have to bookmark this project.

  • Kari

    I love all of your photos! When we go to the Asian market, my kids get Pocky or Happy Bee Bee as treats – my 8 year old loves it all!

  • Jummy

    Oh, your assistants DEFINITELY look like they’re enjoying themselves all the time!

    You said “We may not embrace the different religious beliefs but that doesn’t mean we can’t take away some lessons from them.” and I agree wholeheartedly. You can learn so much from others, even people who are very different from you with respect to beliefs or viewpoints.