The phrase “Xin Nian Kuai Le” is Happy New Year in Mandarin. The new moon closest to the start of spring dictates the beginning of the year in their culture, and each year i)s combined with elements of the earth (gold, wood, water, fire, earth) with twelve animals (rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig/boar). This is the year of the fire rooster, and here at Big Universe, we want to give you some idea as to ways you can use to help in celebrating this popular time for so many people around the world.
Use literature to learn about Chinese New Year and China. One of the books available in Big Universe’s digital library that celebrates the holiday is Rebecca Pettiford’s Chinese New Year gives younger students an idea of how the Chinese celebrate the new year and some traditions they observe. She talks about why children give their elders mandarins, what red symbolizes, and the activities they do each year. You can also learn more about Chinese culture in an easy-to-remember, ABC format in Carol Crane’s D is for Dancing: A China Alphabet.
Study the lives of famous people born during the year of the rooster. Some of the people born during the year of the rooster include Steve Martin, Beyonce, Eleanor Roosevelt, Serena Williams, Mia Farrow, and Rod Stewart. See if any similarities exists between them, and then post the information via bulletin board or student-created video for people to read. Also, look to how Chinese culture describes people born during a rooster year.
If you live near a celebration, encourage your students to attend with their families. Seek to immerse yourself in the language, traditions, and atmosphere surrounding this popular holiday. Have students write about their experiences and compare them with similar celebrations they may have attended.
Go global by studying how different areas around the world celebrate Chinese New Year. Do they have the same traditions in China that they have in the United States or Australia? As children learn more about the different areas, have them compare and contrast the ways each place celebrates the holiday.
Watch the Chinese Dragon and Lion dances. The Dragon dance is a group dance of at least 10 people while the Lion dance is only between two people. Traditionally, the dances bring good luck throughout the year. Discuss what makes the dances similar and how they differ. You might even take on the task of trying to see one up close or learn it as a class together!
Decorate your classroom and hold a Chinese New Year feast with authentic foods and decor. Red lanterns, paper dragons, oranges and mandarin, cherry/plum blossoms, ancient Chinese coins, and bamboo can decorate the room. Children can eat shrimp, soup, apples, chicken, long noodles, sweet rice cakes, and dumplings–traditional foods served at a feast during this time of the year.
Write positive notes to someone special in their lives and give it to them in red envelopes. Traditionally filled with money, these symbolize good luck for the recipient. Students can include their own monetary gifts. Just make sure to tell them that it’s traditional to give new and well-kept bills and coins. An encouraging word or positive thought can be as valuable as money as well.
Go all out discovering all things rooster. For instance, did you know that former president Theodoore Roosevelt owned a one-legged rooster, or that roosters symbolize both good and bad luck depending on the culture? Ideas for research include finding out how many species exists, ways roosters are used in culture, and the way roosters interact with one another.
What about the Chinese New Year interests you the most? Share your comments below.