By People Staff
November 21, 2007 12:00 PM

As a child, Michaela Conlin loved her family’s Chinese New Year traditions—they would pack the typically 15-day celebration into one fun-filled day at her grandmother’s house in Wayne, N.J. “The main focus was food,” says Conlin, 29. “There would be bowls of tangerines and oranges. Everywhere you looked were plates of cookies, figs, kumquats.” Conlin’s favorite rituals included helping prepare dumplings, playing games and, best of all, receiving red envelopes (the color represents good luck) containing money from the elders. “Some-times you could leave with 20 bucks,” recalls Conlin. “It was the most exciting thing.” Since she couldn’t make it home last year, Conlin cooked crispy fish and steamed pork dumplings for friends in L.A. “I’m certainly not as good a cook as my grandmother [who passed away in 2000],” says Conlin. But she knows what matters the most. “Holidays are about bringing people together.”