Here are basic questions, facts, and learning resources about Chinese New Year to share with your children.
Answers to your Kids’ Questions about Chinese New Year
Q: When is Chinese New Year?
A: It is some time during January or February, depending on the lunar calendar. It changes each year. Chinese New Year starts on the first New Moon of the lunar calendar. The New Moon is when the moon cannot be seen at night. The holiday lasts for 15 days. It ends with a Lantern Festival on the first Full Moon of the year.
Q: What do the animals mean for each Chinese New Year?
A: Each year of the Chinese calendar is matched with an animal. The Chinese zodiac has 12 animals that were chosen by Buddha. It is believed that people have the same traits as the matching animal based on what year they were born.
Q: What countries celebrate Chinese New Year?
A: It is celebrated all around the world wherever Chinese culture thrives. It is a holiday celebrated by many southeast Asian countries.
Q: What are some traditions for Chinese New Year?
A: People spend it visiting friends and family. They traditionally bring flowers, fruits, and give children red envelopes with lucky money. People set off fireworks to welcome the new year and to scare off evil spirits. Families visit temples to pray to the ancestors and to wish for good fortune. There are also parades with dancing, colorful costumes, and music. There is a dragon dance and a lion dance to chase away evil and bring good luck.
The Lantern Festival occurs at the end of the Chinese New Year celebration (during the first Full Moon). Lanterns are hung at home with good luck messages. People eat sweet rice balls during the Lantern Festival.
Q: What traditional food is served during Chinese New Year?
A: Families have feasts that include whole fish, representing plentifulness, and round foods such as dumplings. Long noodles are also eaten symbolizing long life. Dessert includes a sticky cake called Nian Gao. A “Tray of Togetherness” is served with eight different sweet foods. It includes candied melon (for good health), red melon seeds (for joy), lychee nuts (for close family bond), kumquats (for wealth), coconut (for togetherness), peanuts (for long life), longnan (for many good sons), and lotus seeds (for many children).
Facts About Chinese New Year
– The color red is a symbol of good luck and happiness.
– It is important that the New Year is full of joy and good feelings. People try to resolve problems before the end of the year to start the new year with happiness. They get haircuts, buy new clothes, and have clean homes to have a fresh start. This makes it easier for good luck to enter the home, and for bad luck to be swept away. Families clean before the end of the year because it is bad luck to clean during the first five days of the new year.
– It is a tradition to have a Dragon Dance. Dancers control a large dragon made of papier-mâché, paper, silk, and bamboo sticks. The Dragon Dance came from a legend. Long ago a dragon would come out the night before New Year’s and would go around the village. Then, an old man came out on New Year’s Eve, telling the villagers that the dragon was afraid of loud noises, bright lights, and the color red. So the tradition was born to scare the dragon away by lighting fireworks, hanging up red decorations, and banging loud drums.
– Families make offerings to their ancestors for good blessings.
– The Kitchen God is an important god that families hang up a picture of in their kitchen. They set up an altar with incense and sweet cakes. The picture is burned which symbolizes going to Heaven, where the Kitchen God reports to the Jade Emperor about the family. The sweet cakes are to help make the report “sweeter” so that the Jade Emperor will bring the family happiness during the year. Another belief is that the sticky sweet cakes will make his mouth stick so the Kitchen God will not report anything at all.
Educational Activities for Chinese New Year
Looking for activities to use at home or in the classroom? We have plenty of worksheets that incorporate writing, math and war research to help you weave Chinese New Year lessons into your curriculum.
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About the All-Star Blogger
Michele is a wife, mommy of 3, and educator. When she’s not homeschooling and chasing a baby around the house, she likes to bake, read, and blog. You can find her blogging adventures at Fil-Am Teacher Mommy.