Designer Sandy Liang held her own Lunar New Year celebration
At the Congee Dim Sum House in downtown New York, things were not as typical last Friday night. The dining room at Congee Dim Sum House on the Bowery was packed with models, influencers, and adorable critters of all kinds on Friday night for an event to celebrate. In celebration of the Lunar New Year, designer Sandy Liang transformed the Cantonese-style eatery—famous for its dumplings, Peking duck, and of course, rice porridge—into a cool downtown party. Given that her father owns the restaurant and also founded the nearby landmark Congee Village in the 1990s, the site was unique. Because of the restaurant’s lofty ceilings, Liang and her siblings have always jokingly said that it would make a great club room. We changed it into that for one night, then.
They drank lychee martinis while dancing to the “Macarena” and “new body rhumba” by LCD Soundsystem while donning red flashes as is customary for the Chinese new year. In honour of the year of the rabbit, Ms. Liang sold jewellery with rabbit themes for $32 to $325, while Mr. Bowien created vegan kimchi pancake lettuce wraps as a tribute to In-N-Out Burger. The festivities were abruptly halted by a minor fire on the street outside. Guests resumed their socialising and content creation when the smoke and brief panic caused by the fire subsided.
Liang had never held her own Lunar New Year celebration before, despite having spent her childhood in the city and celebrating the occasion every year with her family. “I hope to make it more of a tradition. Now, I want to host it annually,” she said. Danny Bowien (of Mission Chinese), the party’s co-host and chef, is also a close friend of Liang. In addition to attracting some of Manhattan’s fashion set inside her family’s restaurant, Liang wanted to uphold the Chinese customs she was raised with. According to Liang, “every restaurant is like my second home.” There is a family birthday meal or every significant event. I celebrated my sixteenth birthday in Congee Village’s basement.
DJ and SoulCycle instructor Parker Radcliffe played a variety of songs within the party. “I just attend Parker’s classes,” Liang claims. “The vibes are so good, and his music is so good.” According to Liang, mixing cocktails with baijiu is a requirement for the Lunar New Year. “It’s practically Everclear for Chinese folks, I keep telling my pals,” Liang chuckles. “It’s like just straight-up rubbing alcohol.” Once buzzing, visitors may even engage in some retail therapy: A modest capsule collection of Lunar New Year accessories, including barrettes, necklaces, and earrings in honour of the Year of the Bunny, that Liang debuted last week was on exhibit. According to Liang, a nonprofit that serves the residents and business owners of Chinatown, “We’re donating a part of the proceeds to Welcome to Chinatown.”
While all was going on, Liang resumed the festivities on Saturday by spending Lunar New Year’s Eve with her family. ” It’s the only holiday that my family takes seriously,” claims Liang. Together, they followed the customs they have been following for years, including burning paper money to remember loved ones who have died away. “We have an altar built into our house with a little statue of Buddha, and we have pots of burning incense,” Liang explained. Then you set out all of these fruits, cookies, and offerings of various kinds for Buddha and your ancestors.”