Whenever Chinese New Year rolls around I think “I must celebrate” because really, I’m always looking for another chance to party. And every year I drop the ball because I have no idea what exactly it is and what to do apart from stuffing my face with Americanized Chinese food that would probably make the natives cringe.
Sweet and sour chicken, anyone?
Upon doing a little bit of digging, I became fascinated with Chinese New Year that starts on Jan. 31, 2014. This is not because I’m a “holiday-obsessed mom” (as stated in Gretchen’s recent blog post) but because it is a fantastic opportunity to educate my kids about another very important culture that iw one fo the largest celebrations in the world. And because I really like to party (see above).
What Is Chinese New Year?
Before I get into celebrating, the Cliff Notes version of this holiday: The Chinese calendar follows a 12-year pattern with each year named after an animal. In China, it is year 4711 and the year of the Horse. Chinese New Year is an important 15-day holiday (brilliant!) that is spent feasting with family, celebration, fireworks and gift-giving that includes kids receiving money in lucky red paper envelopes. It begins the first day of a new moon and ends with the full moon on the day of the Lantern Festival.
The Year of the Horse begins on January 31, and your kids will be excited about welcoming in the new Chinese New Year! Find out about Year of the Horse characteristics and enjoy these fun printables, puzzles, coloring pages, crafts and other activities for kids at Activity Village.
What would a Chinese New Year be like without a Chinese lantern? Spoonful has a fun paper lantern craft for kids to decorate your home. Make many lanterns of different colors for decorations and hang them around your home.
Sorry, no Santa or Christmas trees are to be found during their holiday but the Chinese instead decorate their house with mandarin trees for good luck, which also make good presents if you are visiting someone. If want bonus points with your kids’ teacher, simply have your child give them an orange, wish them Happy Chinese New Year and call it good. Apples are sooo last year.
Dancing Paper Lion or Dragon Toy
I promise, this craft isn’t as difficult as it sounds. Traditionally, on Chinese New Year, two people wear a huge lion or dragon costume and dance. This toy is a tiny paper version of this traditional puppet. Find out how to make it here.
Do you have a child who loves to dance? The Lion Dancers perform to the sound of drums for the first three to five days of the New Year. They dance in front of stores and businesses to scare off the evil spirits and to bring good luck to everyone. Here’s more on Chinese Lion Dances, videos, pictures, costumes and music to perform your own!
Skip the Housework
The Chinese fastidiously clean, clean, clean leading up to the Chinese New Year to wash away any bad luck. But doing any housework on the big day is considered verboten as you could inadvertently sweep away any good luck. Finally, a traditional I can get behind.
Many (if not most) Chinese restaurant celebrate Chinese New Year! Street Kitchen Asian Bistro in south Denver has a great family atmosphere and they will be serving up dumplings for the Chinese New Year with great bento plates for the kiddos. I love that some of my favorite non-Chinese restaurants are getting in on the action. Richard Sandoval’s Zengo’s specialty may be Latin-Asian styles and flavors but that isn’t stopping them from celebrating The Year of the Horse Jan. 30 – Feb. 2 with a special menu that has themes around Luck, Wealth, Longevity and Prosperity.
In case you needed another excuse to shop, every member of the family starts the New Year off right with new clothes. From head to toe, all clothes and accessories worn on New Year’s Day are brand spankin’ new. Be sure to wear red because it is their color of joy and celebration.
This one isn’t a problem chez nous but wouldn’t the kids love an open license to be loud? Chinese New Year is all about fireworks and drum-banging to ward off bad spirits and attract the good. If you don’t have any fireworks handy (we’re not Wyoming, after all), set your kids loose with drums, pots and pans or cymbals. Me thinks earplugs should be another Chinese New Year tradition.
Take a Journey to the Far East right here in Denver and experience the 2014 Annual Colorado Chinese New Year Celebration on Feb. 1 from 12:30-4 p.m. at the Paramount Theater. Enjoy on-stage shows by award-winning artists from China and around the United States performing acrobats, magic,opera songs, lion dance. Savor variety of specially made authentic Chinese food. Experience folk artworks and crafts. http://www.denverchineseschool.org/
Chinese New Year is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in the world. There are plenty of fun picture books that can educate and entertain your kids. Don’t miss this great list of 15 favorite picture books about Chinese New Year and be sure to head to your library.
If you’re a busy mom, maybe the easiest way to celebrate Chinese New Year is to simply order in Chinese food. Make sure to start with egg rolls and dumplings, which symbolize wealth. Move onto the long-noodle lo mein (signifies a long life) and you can’t go wrong with fish or chicken, which bring you good wishes and prosperity. Skip the tofu — it’s white, which is the color the Chinese associate with death and is used prominently in funerals.
That’s just one more reason not to eat it.