I’ve never been the best at keeping track of birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. If it’s not clearly written in bold on my calendar, or better yet, highlighted in some DayGlo color and practically screaming at me from the pages, I’m completely clueless. Contrary to gender stereotype, my husband tends to be the one who is constantly reminding me of our anniversary and other upcoming important dates.

So it’s easy to blame my being date-challenged for not remembering when most (okay, ALL) Chinese holidays are. It doesn’t help that the Chinese go by the lunar calendar, which means the holidays play musical chairs every year. Couple that with the fact that I live in Shelton, Connecticut (not Chinatown), I’m married to a Caucasian and I don’t have family here—it’s just easier for my siblings overseas to clue me in on what’s coming up next. And boy, is it a big one: Chinese New Year. Woo-hoo!

Thursday, February 19, 2015 officially ushers in the Year of the Goat. For those who celebrate, preparations for the festivities would have started weeks (or even months) ago: travel plans for out-of-towners to head home; special ingredients for New Year’s Eve dinner; cakes, pastries or cookies made (or ordered from a favorite bakery); house cleaned and decorated; “lucky money” prepared. And don’t forget all the superstitious “rules” one is required to adhere to throughout the Spring Festival (a.k.a. Chinese New Year): no buying shoes, washing hair, sweeping the floors, the list goes on and on. Most, if not all, of these customs will determine whether one will be blessed or robbed of luck and prosperity for the New Year.

If you’d like to learn more about the Asian festival, there are plenty of resources online. Better yet, sit down with an older generation Chinese and pick his or her brain. You’ll get the best stories. In the meantime, have fun with this eclectic handful of related selections:

Good Luck Life: The Essential Guide to Chinese American Celebrations and Culture by Rosemary Gong (Harper Collins)


Don’t let the words “Chinese American” in the title deter you. Good Luck Life provides a great basic overview of our rituals and the many “rules” that we follow.

Easy Chinese Recipes: Family Favorites from Dim Sum to Kung Pao by Bee Yinn Low (Tuttle Publishing)


There is no shortage of Chinese cookbooks out there, with some claiming to provide the most authentic of recipes, while others are happy to teach you how to mimic Chinese-American take-out fare. I chose Bee’s because it’s simple, user-friendly and chock full of tantalizing photographs with great recipes to boot.

Ruby’s Wish by Shirin Yim Bridges and Sophie Blackall (Chronicle Books)

Rubys Wish

An inspiring story based on the author’s grandmother, this picture book tells of Ruby, a little girl whose dream is to be able to further her studies like the boys in her family. A strong-willed, independent girl. What’s not to like?

Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio by Songling Pu (Penguin Books, Tuttle Publishing)


Of course I’m going to throw in one that’s off the beaten path. While this collection of stories from the Qing Dynasty may be described as “strange” to Westerners, they were pretty much standard folk tales/myths/fables that I read growing up, albeit a little darker at times.

The Banquet Bug by Geling Yan (Hyperion Books)


I picked this up during my last visit back east, not entirely sure what to expect. It grew on me and has since left quite an impression. The story about a man who impersonates a member of the press in order to gain access to banquets is quirky and eye-opening. It manages to flip back a tiny corner of the curtain so we may peer inside the less savory side of China.

There you have it. 恭喜发财, Happy New Year! Here’s to a healthy and prosperous Year of the Goat, from yours truly, a humble goat.