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Chinese New Year is celebrated in January or February each year. It marks the coming of spring and new beginnings.  The holiday is celebrated in China, Vietnam (Tet) and Korea (Sol).  It is usually a two week celebration.  The week before the holiday, families clean their homes to sweep away all traces of misfortune.  Shops and homes are decorated with lanterns, flowers and bright banners. The color red and fireworks are used to frighten away monsters and evil spirits and to gain the attention of the Gods. On the night before the New Year, families celebrate with a family dinner, board games and midnight fireworks.  On New Year’s day, children are given gifts of money in red envelopes and often visit neighbors and friends, with gifts of food and wishes of good fortune. 

On the 15th and last day of the New Year celebration, the Chinese people celebrate what is called the Lantern Festival.  Everyone goes out at night with colorful lit lanterns.  Often children march in a lantern parade.  The lanterns are left lite all night to thank the Gods for returning the day light to them at this time of year.  It is a time to celebrate nature, family and friends and a time to pray for good fortune in the coming year.  The day is filled with eating rice balls, family reunions and solving puzzles often found on the outside of many of the lanterns.

Each year of the Chinese calendar is named for one of the twelve animals in the zodiac cycle.  For example, 2006 was the year of the dog and 2007 is the year of the pig.
2008 – Mouse  2014 – Horse
2009 – Cow 2015 - Sheep
2010 – Tiger 2016 - Monkey
2011 – Rabbit  2017 - Rooster
2012 – Dragon 2018 - Dog
2013 – Snake 2019 - Pig

Even preschoolers can make these simple lanterns.

Give your children a piece of 9” x 12” construction paper.
Help them fold it in half, either direction.
Then using a pair of scissors, cut slits from the fold to within 1” from the opposite edge all along the fold (approximately 1” apart).
You may need to hold the paper for your child and perhaps draw on cutting lines before they begin.
Then bend the paper into a cylinder and tape flaps together at the top and the bottom.
Two holes can be punched at the top of the lantern and short string can be tied to the two holes for a hanger or holder.
These can be strung across your room on a string or they can be attached to a short pole for holding in a lantern parade.
Celebrate Chinese New Year with a fireworks mural on your wall.
You will need plastic dish scrubbers, black butcher paper and tempera paints for this activity.
Pour small amounts of tempera paints into shallow containers.
Place black butcher paper on a long table along with the paint containers and dish scrubbers.
Have children dip the scrubbers into the paints and lightly touch them to the butcher paper to make “fireworks” prints.
Let them continue until the black sky is filled with exploding fireworks.
Hang the mural on a wall or bulletin board.
Variation:  Let your children print fireworks on individual pieces of black paper.
Check out Fireworks Art at the Art Station.
Look for Fireworks Art in the Fourth of July article on the Holiday Station.
You will need some paper plates and large craft sticks for this activity.
Cut paper plates in half.
Have children decorate a plate half however they wish, using marking pens.
Then glue or tape a large craft stick on the back of the plate for a fan handle.
Variation:  Older children could make a simple fan by accordion pleating a piece of paper.

Let your children make holiday decorations using the colors red and gold, which are thought to bring happiness and prosperity.
Cut a piece of red construction paper in half lengthwise to make two long, narrow papers.
Invite your children to decorate the papers with gold glitter-glue designs and glued on pieces of gold ribbon or gold gift-wrap scraps.
When they have finished, hang their creations around the room.
A highlight of the Chinese New Year’s Celebration is the Dragon (or Lion) Dance, in which a line of men carry a giant paper and cloth dragon through the streets.  Let your children make a paper version.
Have them decorate the bottom of a small paper bag any way they wish to make a dragon face.  Suggestions:  Marking pens or cut paper pieces.
Then give your children small ribbon pieces to glue or tape around the dragon face and paper circles to attach to the sides of the bag for dragon scales.
Have children slip a hand up into the paper puppet and use their fingers to move the face of the dragon up and down.
Since red is seen everywhere at Chinese New Year’s time, use the celebration to review the color with your children.  Here are a few things to try.
Select items of red clothing to wear, encourage your children to do the same.
Play an “I Spy” game with your children looking for red objects.
Go for a “Red Walk”.
One Chinese New Year’s custom that children look forward to is receiving “lucky money” in small red envelopes.  You can turn this custom into a fun math game.
Number five red envelopes from 1 to 5.
Cut out 15 yellow circles for coins.
Let your children take turns filling the envelopes with coins to match the numbers on the outside of each envelope.

Tell your children the names and sounds of each Chinese Zodiac animal.
Put the next 12 years on small slips of paper along with the animal of that year.
Put the slips of paper in a container.
Let your children take turns reaching in and pulling out a paper.
Whisper the name of the animal to that child and then have him act out the movements or sounds of the animal.
Have the other children guess which animal he represents.


Getting ready for the Chinese New Year’s celebration means making sure the house is spotless.  Let your child help you with simple housecleaning tasks such as these.
Dusting easy-to-reach objects.
Sponging off washable tabletops.
Sweeping with a small broom.
Set out simple tanagrams for your children to put together.
Make puzzle cards for each tanagram, showing a sketch of the puzzle.

Have your children place the correct puzzle pieces on top of the corresponding shape on the card.

Here is a popular form of dance and acrobats in China.
At movement time, give each of your children a 2” x 4’ ribbon strip.
Let them practice dancing with the ribbon by moving the ribbon up, down, and around.
Be sure children are spaced far apart for this activity.
For safety reasons, do not let your children play with the ribbon strips unsupervised.
Give your children pieces of paper (approximately 12” x 18”).
Let them decorate the banners however they wish.
Have children use scissors to fringe one short end of their banner.
Wrap the opposite short end of the banner around the bottom of a coat hanger and staple or tape it secure.
Write the Chinese New Year’s greeting “Gung Hay Fat Choy”  (Happy New Year) on each banner.
Hang up children’s banners, or let them take them home.
Teach your children the words on their banner, so they can “read” their banner to family and friends.
Read the story “ Little Mouse’s Big Trick” where a clever rat is choose as one of the twelve animals for the Chinese years.
The story can be found on the Story Station, under Winter Stories.
Here are some ideas to try for Chinese New Year’s snacking.
Chinese pot stickers.
Tangerine sections (for good luck)
Chinese noodles (represent long life)
Rice cakes wrapped in red tissue paper (good fortune)

Use red place mats and napkins for snack time.


Tune:  “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”

Dragon, dragon, dance around.
Dragon, dragon, touch the ground.
Dragon, dragon, shake your head.
Dragon, dragon, tongue so red.
Dragon, dragon, stamp your feet.
Dragon, dragon, coming down the street!
                        Heather McPhail

Tune:  “Happy Birthday”

Happy Gung Hay Fat Choy.
Happy Gung Hay Fat Choy
Happy New Year, everyone!
Happy Gung Hay Fat Choy.
                 Jean Warren

Tune:  “When Johnny Come Marching Home Again”

The children are marching into town, hooray! hooray!
They all have lanterns as they come our way.
Some are big with lots of light.
Some are small but just as bright.
Oh, we’re oh so glad the children could come today.

The children are marching into town, hooray! hooray!
To celebrate the New Year and it’s brighter days.
Spring has come, with all that’s new.
The old year’s gone and bad luck, too.
Oh, we’re oh so glad the children could come today.
                                      Jean Warren