Teaching Children about Chinese New Year


2004 Lantern Festival in Nagasaki, Japan - Lan...

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Happy Chinese New Year! Gong Xi Fa Ca!

Today marks the beginning of the Year of the Dragon.  The dragon is a symbol of good fortune and power and it is a revered year. Many consider those who are born in the year of the dragon,  to be innovative, passionate people who are colorful, confident and fearless.  It is a special year indeed!

Last year, Peanut celebrated the Chinese New Year in School: they study China in third grade.  The class moms and teachers put on a Chinese feast and taught the students how to use chopsticks correctly (almost).  All the children were then presented with red envelopes with money in them: hóngbāo in Mandarin.  The red symbolizes fire which can drive away bad luck.  The money is a bonus…and serves as a gift to children and unwed adults.  Red lanterns adorned the school cafeteria to represent the Lantern Festival held on the fifteenth day of the New year.  These Lantern festivals often culminate in the dance of the dragon.

I expose my children to as many different cultures as possible.  Today they have a special craft awaiting them after school.  We are making dragons.  This craft is relatively simple and, as we build our dragons, we will learn a little about what they symbolize.  I know they will be delighted to discover the Chinese consider it good luck to make a lot of noise, hence the fireworks, to drive out bad spirits.  We will be making loud noises tonight!

Supplies:

  • Colored paper
  • Scissors
  • Crayons or markers
  • Glue, tape
  • 2 wooden barbecue skewers (or 2 straws or disposable chopsticks)
  • Optional glitter, feathers
  1. Draw the head and tail of a dragon on a piece of paper or card stock.
  2. Cut the head and tail out and decorate with bright colors.
  3. Optional: Decorate with glitter and feathers.
  4. Fold a piece of paper in half the long way. Cut along the fold line, making two long rectangles.
  5. Fold each piece of paper up like an accordion. Glue or tape the two pieces together, forming one long piece that will be the dragon’s body.
  6. Glue or tape one end of the body to the head. Glue or tape the other end of the body to the tail.
  7. Tape one skewer (or straw) to the head and the other skewer (or straw) onto the tail.
  8. You now have a dragon that can dance for Chinese New Year.
Children’s Books:

A New Year’s Reunion” by Yu Li-Qiong; illustrated by Zhu Cheng Liang. $15.99. Age 5 and older.

A picture book telling the tale of Maomao, a young Chinese girl.  her father returns from his job far away for Chinese New Year.  The story tells how the two characters make traditional rice balls, watch Chinese dragons dance, and enjoy time together before saying goodbye again.

Dumpling Days” by Grace Lin. $15.99. Age 9 and older.

Part of a series, this book takes the main character, Pacy Lin to her ancestral home in Taiwan.  Having grown up in New York, the excitement of visiting her family and getting the chance to learn Chinese painting, changes to Pacy having to face up to the challenges of a foreign country.  She cannot speak the language, she does not like the food, and she has difficulty making new friends.  She has a month to either suffer though, or find out more about her self.

From the Inside Flap:
“In a book that is itself a celebration, Demi explains the rituals and ideas behind the Chinese New Year festival. The last 15 days of the old year are spent cleaning and preparing (‘Wash your hair and get a new haircut. Pay the debts that you owe and collect what is owed to you!’). On the eve of the new moon, a special feast is prepared. . . . The first 15 days of the new year are spent celebrating with lion dances, firecrackers, and other activities.


For many more Chinese New Year Ideas, head on over to Jeanette’s Healthy Living.

7 comments on “Teaching Children about Chinese New Year

  1. Pingback: “Chinese New Year Edition” of Hit Game Fishing Joy Debuts in App Store and Android Marketplace - Portablegames.us

  2. Love this post! Isn’t Chinese New Year fun for the kids – what a great craft…and I’ll have to check out these books. Thanks for including a link to my Chinese New year post. Happy Year of the Dragon!

  3. I really do think children should be able to get involved and ubderstand different cultures of the world.i believe it opens there mind to what other cultures do around the world

    • I agree, Sharon. We are hosting an International Luncheon at school today as a way to celebrate other nationalities and cultures…the children get so much from it.

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