By Guest Blogger Lauren Warren
In case you have not heard, many people around the world will soon be celebrating the Lunar New Year. The official Chinese New Year is on February 12th this year. The entire holiday lasts until the Lantern Festival on February 26, 2021, and is also called the Spring Festival. The Spring Festival is a huge holiday celebrated across the world, with over 1 billion people participating. The holiday isn’t just celebrated in China: people in the United States, Malaysia, Vietnam, and many other countries take part in the festivities.
I tutor students in English, and most of my students live in mainland China. They are very excited about this holiday. Not only is it their most significant celebration of the year, but students get off of school for almost a month. And they could not be more thrilled about this!
Would you like to learn more about the history of this festival? And how to celebrate with your children at home?
Although dates vary, most historians believe that people have celebrated the Chinese New Year for over 3,000 years. The exact date of the New Year is based on the lunar calendar and is typically observed in January or February every year. In the United States, we follow the Gregorian calendar, which is a type of solar calendar. The Chinese New Year falls on the second new moon of the winter solstice. This year, that date is February 12th.
There are twelve zodiac animals in Chinese astrology. Each year, a different zodiac animal is recognized. This year, 2021, is the Year of the Ox. The Ox is known to be diligent, hardworking, and reliable. Your zodiac sign is based on your birth year. For fun, look up your zodiac sign with your kids here: Chinese Horoscopes.
The Legend of Nian tells the story of how the Chinese New Year started. In Ancient China, there was a horrible beast called Nian. He appeared on the darkest night of the year, or the Lunar New Year. Every year he came to a village and scared the villagers, eating their crops and animals. One year an old beggar came to the town. An elderly villager gave him shelter and food. In exchange, he showed the villagers that Nian would be scared away by loud noises, fire, and the color red. The villagers fought back and were able to scare Nian away. Following this legend, people celebrate the Chinese New Year with the color red, firecrackers, and noisemakers. Here is a video explaining the Legend of Nian and some of the traditions surrounding the Chinese New Year: Legend of Nian
Chinese New Year is a time for celebration, food, and gathering with loved ones. People travel from all over the world to be with their families. Family togetherness is one of the essential elements of this holiday. During the celebrations, there is a lot of cleaning and lots and lots of cooking. The largest feast of the holiday is on the eve of Chinese New Year. This year the dinner will be held on February 11th. Most people in the Chinese culture will eat dumplings, fish, and other meat to celebrate. Some families even hide coins in the dumplings. If you find the coin, then that means extra good luck for you the whole year!
The color red is another important tradition. To the Chinese people, the color red symbolizes happiness and good luck. Most children get new, red clothes to wear in preparation for the Chinese New Year and Spring Festival. The color red is popular for clothes, and most of the Chinese New Year’s decorations are also the color red. Common decorative items include red lanterns, firecrackers, and beautiful cuttings called window blossoms or window flowers.
One of the favorite Chinese New Year traditions among my students is the red envelopes or hongbao. Anyone young and unmarried, but especially children, may receive red envelopes from older relatives. These red envelopes are filled with money, and the children are allowed to do whatever they would like with their money!
The Spring Festival ends every year with the Lantern Festival. This year the Lantern Festival will be held on February 26th. Beautiful lanterns are hung all over China. These are very decorative and colorful. Children may also carry lanterns through the street. Some of the lanterns even have riddles attached to them! If you have a riddle lantern and solve it, the lantern maker may give you a small prize.
In North Carolina, there are two lantern festivals that coincide with the Spring Festival. Unfortunately, due to COVID, they were closed this year. But do look at the photos of the beautiful lanterns and mark your calendar for next year!
One of the things I plan to do with my children is hide red envelopes full of money (well, $1 bills). Traditionally, an elder would hand the red envelope to the child with both hands. I plan to hide the envelopes around my house for my kids to find. You can find your red envelopes online at Amazon or Oriental Trading Company. I found mine locally at the Super G Mart behind the customer service desk. I was able to get eight envelopes for $1.
You could make some beautiful red paper lanterns or rainbow fortune cookies with your family to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Chalk Academy has some beautiful crafts that are relatively easy to do with children of all ages.
Make sure to try some traditional Chinese New Year food to celebrate also. If you are feeling extra brave, try cooking your own with this recipe: Chinese Dumplings. I plan to try some dumplings with my family from May Way Dumplings. TMoM has a great list of ethnic restaurants HERE. If you know of others, please list them in the comments below.
Enjoy celebrating. And I hope that you have a happy and prosperous new year!
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