When it comes time to celebrate a Chinese holiday, visiting Chinatown is still your best option for the widest selection and lowest prices on everything from recipe ingredients to red envelopes. However, in case visiting Chinatown isn’t an option, we’re fortune that it’s become possible in recent years to find many holiday essentials available for purchase online.
Here is a collection of holiday basics which, when combined with the tutorials found in our Holiday Guides, can give you a head start as you prepare to celebrate Chinese holidays throughout the year.
Chinese New Year
There’s no substitute for visiting Chinatown as you clean, cook and decorate for Chinese New Year. However, it is possible to pick up essentials like red envelopes, paper cuttings, a divided platter for a Tray of Togetherness and glutinous rice for tang yuan online. For more, see our Guide to Chinese New Year.
Red envelopes filled with lucky money are an iconic symbol of Chinese New Year. This design features script characters, oranges and a traditional longevity knot expressing the hope for a life filled with happiness.
Good Luck Banner
This classic design decorated with the Chinese character for good fortune and flowers symbolizing harmony, elegance and virtue is the perfect Chinese New Year decoration to hang on your front door or near a window.
Divided Serving Tray
This simple acrylic serving tray with eight compartments and a cover is just what you need to create a Tray of Togetherness for Chinese New Year. Just pick the eight treats you’ll want to serve for your guests.
Glutinous Rice Flour
Glutinous rice flour is the specialty ingredient you’ll need to make the dumplings known as tang yuan at the end of Chinese New Year for the Lantern Festival.
You’ll find most of what you need to celebrate the Qingming Festival at a holiday paper goods store in Chinatown. It’s still relatively difficult to find joss paper offerings and joss sticks online. For more, see our Guide to the Qingming Festival.
Joss Paper Offerings
Because they’re burned for your own ancestors, joss paper offerings for the Qingming Festival are generally more elaborate than what’s burned during the Hungry Ghost Festival. These traditional joss paper squares are each decorated with gold or silver foil to represent money.
These sandalwood joss sticks will throw off their signature scent as smoke curls up toward the sky during your Qingming Festival tomb-sweeping ceremony.
Joss Paper Money
The Chinese joss paper “spirit money” known as Hell Bank Notes are printed to resemble legal tender currency from various countries. They come in outrageous denominations from 10,000 to 1,000,000 dollars to help an ancestor purchase services, pay off the God of Death or escape punishment.
Dragon Boat Festival
Apart from heading out to the water to watch dragon boat races, celebrating the Dragon Boat Festival is all about making rice dumplings. Fortunately, all the crucial ingredients are available online, so you’ll be able to craft these delicious dumplings wherever you live. For more, see our Guide to the Dragon Boat Festival.
Making the traditional rice dumpling known as joong or zongzi starts with these dried bamboo leaf wrappers.
The main filling ingredient when making rice dumplings is sweet glutinous rice. It’s stickier than long grain rice and does a great job soaking up flavor from the Chinese sausage and mung beans.
The dried Chinese sausage known as lap cheong in Cantonese provides a satisfying, savory taste for the rice dumpling filling.
Dried Mung Beans
Mung beans are another common filling ingredient for the Chinese rice dumplings served during the Dragon Boat Festival.
Hungry Ghost Festival
As with the Qingming Festival earlier in the year, it’s still difficult to find a wide variety of joss paper and joss sticks online to celebrate the Hungry Ghost Festival. However, you can still get by with the basics that are available below. For more, see our Guide to the Hungry Ghost Festival.
You can use this joss paper to fold into the shape of traditional gold ingots, before burning them during your ghost-feeding ceremony.
These sandalwood joss sticks will throw off their signature scent as smoke curls up toward the sky during your ghost-feeding ceremony.
Floating Paper Lanterns
While it’s a wonderful experience to make your own floating lotus flower paper lantern, you can also use these cube lanterns to help the wandering spirits find their way home at the end of the Hungry Ghost Festival.
While you’ll still have to visit a Chinese bakery if you want to buy mooncakes, everything you need in order to make them yourself (along with their cousin, the mooncake biscuit) is available online. So, pick out your mooncake molds, order dried lotus seeds and get baking! For more, see our Guide to the Mid-Autumn Festival.
This traditional wooden mooncake mold is the tool you’ll need to make your own mooncakes at home. It will turn out mooncakes that look just like the ones you find at your local Chinese bakery.
Dried Lotus Seeds
Dried lotus seeds are the specialty ingredient that’s required for making mooncakes at home. You should be able to find everything else you need at your local grocery store.
Mooncake Biscuit Mold
This mooncakes biscuit mold will help you make the traditional Mid-Autumn Festival cookies know as kung chai peng. These cookies are generally made in the shape of fish or other animals.
DIY Paper Lanterns
Here’s a great set of DIY paper lanterns that are both a beautiful source of light during what’s typically an outdoor evening celebration and a traditional toy that kids love parading around under the moonlight.
Double Ninth Festival
The Double Ninth Festival has become an opportunity to celebrate seniors in China. Though not widely celebrated here in the United States, it’s a great time to go for a hike, drink chrysanthemum tea and call your grandparents. For more, see our Guide to the Double Ninth Festival.
It’s traditional to drink chrysanthemum tea during the Double Ninth Festival, a holiday focused on good health and long life. Chrysanthemum tea also makes a great gift for parents or grandparents during the festival.
The primary thing you’ll want to do to celebrate the Dongzhi Festival is make the glutinous rice dumplings known as tang yuan, which requires glutinous rice flour, food coloring and little else! For more, see our Guide to the Dongzhi Festival.
Glutinous Rice Flour
Glutinous rice flour is the specialty ingredient you’ll need to make the dumplings known as tang yuan for the Dongzhi Festival. There’s nothing better than a warm bowl of tang yuan on a cold winter day.
This food coloring will help you dye the tang yuan you make during the Dongzhi Festival red and gold for good luck and prosperity.
Your turn! Are there any holiday supplies you can’t do without? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!