Fun Activities for Teaching Chinese New Year

This year, Chinese New Year takes place on Saturday, January 25th. TeacherVision Advisory Board Member Olivia shares everything you need to know about this holiday, and includes fun resources for celebrating it with your students.

Updated on: January 8, 2020

Chinese New Year Revelers

As teachers come back to school after the holiday break, it can be easy to forget that a very important holiday is celebrated in Chinese culture shortly after. Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year or Spring Festival is an extremely valued event within Chinese culture.

If you are planning on teaching your students about Chinese New Year, and celebrating it with them, the information and resources in this blog post have everything that you need to plan your lesson.

What Is Chinese New Year? When Does It Take Place?

While it may not align with the Gregorian calendar which most of the world follows, it is considered the first day of the first month in the traditional Chinese calendar. The calendar is based on a traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar whose dates indicate both the phase of the moon and the time of the solar year. Given that a lunar month is about two days shorter than a solar month, an extra month is added to “catch up” every few years, which is why Chinese New Year is celebrated on a different day each year.

Typically, the celebration starts on New Year’s Eve of the Chinese lunisolar calendar, and lasts about 15 days through the middle of the first month. Prior to the celebration, people typically cleanse their homes thoroughly and display traditional New Year’s decorations. The decorations often include large amounts of the color red, the most popular being upside down fu, dui lian, lanterns, year paint, papercutting, and door gods.

How Is the Chinese New Year Celebrated?

This is considered a time for family reunion and is the most important part of the celebration. Many families have a reunion dinner on Chinese New Year’s Eve, specifically with family members who are far from home. The two main dishes served are fish and dumplings which are meant to signify prosperity, the remaining dishes are based on personal preference. Fireworks are launched after 12:00 p.m. on New Year’s Eve to celebrate the coming of the New Year and to drive away the evil.

Some families participate in “Shou Shi” which means “after the New Year’s Eve dinner” by staying awake during the night, others stay up until midnight after the fireworks. This is based on the legends of a mythical beast named “Year” which would come out to harm people, animals, and properties at the night of New Year’s Eve. The beast “Year” is afraid of the color red, fire, and loud sounds, which is why people launch fireworks, light fires, and stay awake the whole night to fend it off. Families sometimes choose to do “red packets” which are red envelopes with money in it ranging from one to a few thousand yen, typically given to young children by adults and the elderly. It is believed that the money in the red packet will suppress evil and keep the children healthy, giving them a long life.

What Can I Do To Teach Chinese New Year?

Chinese New Year is a celebrated public holiday in modern China, with most working professionals enjoying a week of time off to celebrate. While these traditions may not be able to be replicated in your classroom, there are still many fun ways to educate your students about Chinese New Year and what it represents.

Books About Chinese New Year

Here are some great activities to accompany your own Chinese New Year discussions and read-alouds, all of which can be used in your own parade!

Chinese Handprint Dragon Craft

Chinese Handprint Dragon Craft

Materials Required:

Watercolor paper, paint, paint brushes, scissors, pens, glue and this template for head, tail, and claws.

Directions:

  • Have each student paint pieces of paper using the colors red, orange, and yellow.
  • Once the paint dries, trace handprints onto your piece of paper and cut them out (about 9-10 handprints).
  • Glue them like scales to your body pieces.
  • Color in your head, claw, and tail pieces.
  • Cut them and glue them onto the body.

Chinese Dragon Paper Bag Puppet

Chinese Dragon Paper Bag Puppet

Materials Required:

Crayons or markers, glue, scissors, paper bag, and this template for the head, body, and mouth.

Directions:

  • Color in your pieces and cut them out.
  • Once the paint dries, trace handprints onto your piece of paper and cut them out (about 9-10 handprints).
  • Glue them onto your paper bag, the head going on the bottom of the bag that would normally lay flat, the scales on the outside portion of the bag.
  • Perform your own dragon dance!

 

Chinese New Year Drum

Chinese New Year Drum

Materials Required:

Red and yellow (gold) paint, paintbrushes, paper plates, dowel cut to size, tape, string, mini bells, stapler.

Directions:

  • Paint the back of two plates with the red and yellow paint, then allow to dry.
  • Tape a wooden dowel to the inside of one of the plates, allowing enough to come outside of the plate so it can be a handle.
  • Tie one bell to two pieces of string respectively, and tape them to the inside of one of the plates, one on either side.
  • Use a stapler to attach the second plate on top. Make sure to staple where the strings are attached to help secure them in place.
  • To use the drum, hold the stick between your palms and rub back and forth (like you are trying to warm up), and the string/bells will swing, hitting the drum faces.
  • Have your own parade with your new drum!

How do you celebrate Chinese New Year in your classroom? Share with us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

TeacherVision Advisory Board Member Olivia Bechtel is a first grade teacher in Westerville, Ohio who loves implementing engaging, innovative lessons to inspire her students. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her husband, son, and two dogs.