Chinese New Year

Andrea Evans
February 19, 2015

Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year, begins on the first day of the first new moon; and this year—the Year of the Goat—starts on February 19. What might the Year of the Goat portend? Well, if you have a child born this year, then according to the Chinese Zodiac, he will have certain personality traits: he will be calm, gentle, creative, and persevering. People born in the Year of the Goat may also prefer to be in groups and are brimming with a strong sense of kindheartedness and justice.  

Even if you do not have any kids being born this year, it might be fun to try out some of the rituals associated with the celebration of the Lunar New Year. For example, to celebrate the New Year, custom dictates that you try to prevent bad luck or unresolved matters from following you into the new year by cleaning house, paying off debts, and tying up any loose ends.  In other words, give yourself a fresh start in 2015. And the Chinese also put a big emphasis on visiting family members at the New Year. What better way to teach your children the importance of family than to make sure that they visit with family members, both near and distant?

While your kids may not want to be carted off to Uncle Mervin's, nor have much interest in cleaning house, Chinese New Year offers much to captivate their imaginations. In some places, it is customary to give red envelopes with "lucky money" to young children. What kid wouldn't welcome that?  And the costumes and drumming of a traditional Lion Dance (performed to scare away evil spirits and ensure a bright new beginning) are sure to delight! Did we mention fireworks and parades? Seriously, Chinese New Year offers something for everyone to enjoy. 

To get you started with your own celebration, here are some of our favorite crafts and books:

Traditional Red Envelopes

Materials needed: red and green construction paper, gold glitter glue or gold markers, black marker, scissors, Chinese characters pattern/stencils, glue

Cut the red construction paper to about 6 x 8 inches.  Fold the bottom of the longer side up about one inch and glue in place. Fold one of the 6 inch sides toward the middle, then fold the other side over the top of that.  Glue in place.Use gold glitter or gold markers to draw on lucky Chinese symbols.  Set aside to dry. Cut a small rectangle from green construction paper (in the shape of a $1 bill).  Use a black marker to draw $1 in the corner and the word "ONE" in the center.  When everything is dry, insert the green dollar into the red envelope and glue in place.

Luck Lantern

Materials needed: empty soup can, permanent marker, water; hammer, nail, sand, and a small red candle

Remove the label and wash and dry the can. Draw the Chinese character for luck on the can with permanent marker, either four times evenly spaced or many times in smaller characters. Leave the lower quarter of the can blank. Fill the can with water and freeze. When the water is frozen, take the can from the freezer, and (with adult help) use the hammer and a nail to punch holes to outline the characters. If the ice starts to melt, put the can back in the freezer until it is solid again. When the holes are all punched, let the ice melt. Fill the bottom of the can 1/4-full of sand. Put the candle in the sand. Put this luck lantern on your table on the night of the first new moon of the Chinese New Year to bring your family good luck.

Golden Dragon Puppet

Materials needed: two old solid-color neckties, scissors, ruler, gold fabric paint, sponge, glue, red yard, two safety pins, and felt scraps 

This Chinese New Year Golden Dragon puppet has a special trick -- when you curl your fingers to make him look at somebody, his ears stand up.

Cut across one of the ties about 15 inches above the point. This will be the dragon's body. Cut the narrow end off both ties 4 inches from the narrow point. These will be the dragon's ears. Use a sponge to press golden fabric paint onto the tie. Let dry. For the dragon's whiskers, glue two pieces of red yarn to the point at the wide end of the tie. Cut two black felt triangles for the dragon's nose, and glue them on. Cut the dragon's eyes out of white and blue felt, and glue them on. Cut the dragon's fangs out of white felt, and glue them to the sides of the dragon's face. Make two small slits in the tie about 2-inches above the eyes. These slits should be just big enough for the gathered end of the ears to fit in. Pin the ears to the body, hiding the pins in the folds of the ears.

This Next New Year by Janet S. Wong, Yangsook Choi (Illustrator)

A young boy looks forward to Chinese New Year -- also known as the Lunar New Year, the day of the first new moon. It is a time of hope, and you don't have to be Chinese to celebrate it! His best friend, Glenn, who is French and German, and his cousin Evelyn, part Hopi and part Mexican, like the food and the envelopes of money, while he celebrates the fresh start the day offers. He cleans the house to make room for luck, and is glad the palms of his hands itch - that means he is coming into money. Most of all, he vows not to say things such as "can't do / don't have / why me" because he has dreams he is ready to make come true. Janet S. Wong's spare, lyrical couplets voice a child's determination to face the new year with courage and optimism. Yangsook Choi captures the spirit of celebration in her vibrant, energetic pictures.

Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chinn, Cornelius Van Wright (Illustrator), Ying-Hwa Hu (Illustrator)

Sam receives four bright red envelopes decorated with shiny gold emblems as part of the traditional Chinese New Year celebration, each containing a dollar. He accompanies his mother through Chinatown -- and realizes that the "lucky money" won't buy as much as he had hoped. His mood is further sobered after an encounter with a man he stumbles upon in the street. He nobly, though not surprisingly, concludes that his four dollars would be best spent on the barefoot stranger. Detailed descriptions of the sights and sounds of the Chinese New Year celebration build in contrast to Sam's growing introspection, becoming even more dramatic and adding to the depth of the story. 

The Savvy Source is an Amazon affiliate. 

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