Making dumplings for the Lunar New Year at The Club
February 16, 2023
DAYTON-January 22nd was the first day of the Lunar New Year. For The Club's "Plus Delta After School Program" in Dayton, it was the start of a series of events for the kids to learn more about a holiday celebrated by more than 1.5 billion people worldwide. The Chinese calendar follows the monthly cycles of the Moon's phases, known as the lunar-solar cycles. Historically, in many Asian countries this time of year was celebrated to honor household and heavenly deities and ancestors. Some holiday activities based on folklore included setting off fireworks to scare off beastly entities that want to harm a village. Like many other holidays, it's a time for families to come together, eat together, and celebrate their origins.
Several activities in honor of the Lunar New Year took place at the Club's after-school program, from learning how to write Chinese characters to making a life-sized dragon. The festive dragon, known as the loong, is used in dance performances and festivals. The school children displayed their dragon at Dayton Elementary for a while.
To end the Lunar New Year, Dayton resident LanLan Wang Rundell came to The Club to teach the kids how to make dumplings. Dumplings are a common treat for Asian families when they come together for the Lunar New Year.
Rundell, who was born and raised in Beijing, said the great thing about dumplings is "you can put anything you like in (dumplings)," which makes them a great introduction to Chinese food for picky children.
After a long day at school, many of the children don't want to do much, including eight-year-old Jamison, who said, "I don't want to make them. I just want to eat them." After being encouraged to help make some of the dumplings, Jamison's demeanor changed, and he enthusiastically made several more.
Other children were excited from the beginning, like David, seven years old, who asked if he could take some home to cook for himself and his family. Kolton and Austin, both aged ten, asked plenty of questions about how to make the dumplings themselves. Rundell described a variety of combinations that are possible for the kids in making dumplings at home.
Rundell showed the children how to fold and seal the flour shells. Putting a tad of water on the outer corners of the shell, then folding it much like a taco and squishing the ends together gently to seal it. The careful seal embellishes the dumplings and makes them distinctive from other flour-wrapped foods.
In the kitchen, Club staff Shakira Bye and Genesee Smith demonstrated how to cook the dumplings as several children exclaimed how good they smelled. Dumplings can be oven-baked, pan-fried, boiled, or steamed on a stovetop.
As kids filed out for the day, they were given a couple of dumplings to go, and reactions varied, exemplified by comments from brothers Silas and Kolton, eight and ten years old. Kolton told Smith the dumplings were the "best thing he's ever had in his life" verses his brother, who told the staff his dumpling was "okay, but not really good."
Rundell fondly remembered spending the Lunar New Year with her family in China and impressed the importance of the celebration as a family-centered event. It is a reason for families to come together, clean the house, put up traditional Chinese decorations like paper lanterns and cherry blossoms, cook, and bond with each other.
She shared that coming to The Club to demonstrate making dumplings was important because "America is a melting pot."
"It doesn't matter if it's American; it's just a very interesting, different culture," said Rundell.
Many kids told me over the course of the Lunar New Year activities that they hadn't known where China was on a map but now felt that they had touched another part of the world with roots in our community. So ends the Lunar New Year at the Club After School Studios.