Chinese New Year has been celebrated for thousands of years, in countries all over the world. People spend the last 15 days of the old year cleaning, preparing, and settling debts. On the eve of the new moon, a special feast is prepared. Then, the first 15 days of the New Year are spent celebrating with lion dances, firecrackers, and parades. This year, Chinese New Year begins Friday, February 16. Here are some of our favorite Chinese New Year activities for the classroom, each paired with an informative read aloud.
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1. Happy, Happy Chinese New Year by Demi + Chinese Pellet Drum
The book: This delightfully illustrated book by Demi is a detailed celebration of the many exciting aspects the Chinese New Year. Infused with joy and filled with information!
The activity: Create your own traditional Bolang Gu, or pellet drum. Used in Chinese ritual music, this instrument is a double-sided drum on a handle with two pellets connected to the sides. Play it by turning the stick between your hands so that the two pellets swing back and forth and hit the two drum heads. It’s tricky at first, but once you do get it, it makes a wonderful rhythmic sound.
2. Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin + Chinese New Year Dragon Puppet
The book: Newbery honoree Grace Lin peeks into the life of a Chinese-American family as they prepare for the Lunar New Year. Every family member helps sweep out the dust of the old year, hang decorations, and make dumplings for the great feast. Then it’s time to celebrate with fireworks, lion dancers, shining lanterns, and a great, long dragon parade at the end!
The activity: The dragon is a colorful and important element of traditional Chinese New Year parades. Make this version with simple supplies, such as paper plates, paint, and sections of egg cartons with streamers flowing from behind. Attach the puppet to a dowel and lead a parade of your own!
3. Hiss! Pop! Boom!: Celebrating Chinese New Year by Tricia Morrissey + Easy Fireworks Painting
The book: Beautifully illustrated with Chinese brush painting and elegant calligraphy, this story delivers the sights and sounds of the Chinese New Year celebration.
The activity: Cut a cardboard paper roll into thin sections to form a simple paintbrush. Dip it into colorful paint and create a picture of dazzling fireworks!
4. Long-Long’s New Year: A Story about the Chinese Spring Festival by Catherine Gower + Gold Fish Kites
The book: Follow along with Long-Long, a little Chinese boy from the country, as he accompanies his grandfather into the big city on an adventure to prepare for the Chinese New Year. The stunning illustrations in this book capture the look of everyday life in rural China and offer an introduction to Chinese culture.
The activity: Crepe paper, googly eyes, and a paper towel roll are transformed into beautiful flowing goldfish kites. Add a string to the top and hang them from the ceiling of your classroom.
5. Moonbeams, Dumplings and Dragon Boats by Nina Simonds and Leslie Swartz + Chinese New Year Snake
The book: This stunning compilation of fun family activities, delicious recipes, and traditional read-aloud tales is a celebration of the many facets of the Chinese New Year tradition.
The activity: This craft is simple but requires patience (and fine motor coordination). Make the snake’s head from a cardboard paper roll. Add the googly eyes then fold long strips of construction paper to form the tail.
6. Chinese Fables “The Dragon Slayer” and Other Timeless Tales of Wisdom by Shiho S. Nunes + Year of the Dog Collage
The book: This multiple award-winning collection of Chinese fables will delight listeners with traditional stories that have been part of Chinese culture for thousands of years. Told in the ancient folk style, each story contains a piece of wisdom, humor, and affection.
The activity: Celebrate the Year of the Dog with this adorable project. Fashion the body and head of your puppy with newspaper. Then add the details with construction paper and markers.
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