Lunar 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 dancing, firecrackers, and parades. In 2023, Lunar New Year begins Sunday, January 22. Here are some of our favorite Lunar New Year books and activities for the classroom.
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1. Read The Year of the Rabbit by Oliver Chin and learn more about the Year of the Rabbit
Book: Rosie is a rabbit who loves adventure. In this story, she’s on a unique quest to discover her own character. Her thrilling journey celebrates the new year.
Buy it: The Year of the Rabbit: Tales from the Chinese Zodiac at Amazon
Activity: According to the Lunar 12-year animal zodiac cycle, the Chinese year beginning in 2023 is the Year of the Rabbit. Did you know that people born in years of the rabbit are believed to have strong reasoning skills and attention to detail? Or that the rabbit’s lucky colors are red, pink, purple, and blue? Send your students to this website and do some research to learn more fun facts.
Learn more: Year of the Rabbit at ChineseNewYear.net
2. Read Lunar New Year by Hannah Eliot and take a virtual field trip
Book: After the winter solstice each year, it’s time for a celebration with many names: Chinese New Year, Spring Festival, and Lunar New Year!
Buy it: Lunar New Year at Amazon
Activity: This virtual field trip includes so much information and plenty of activities. Some examples include a craft video tutorial for paper lanterns and how to write Chinese characters.
Try it: Lunar New Year Virtual Field Trip at Jonesin for Taste
3. Read Chinese Zodiac Animals by Sanmu Tang and make Chinese animal zodiac clocks
Book: In traditional Chinese culture, some people believed that a person’s character and destiny were somehow decided by their zodiac animal. This story explains the traits of each animal sign and what luck the future might hold for the person born under that sign.
Buy it: Chinese Zodiac Animals at Amazon
Activity: Cut a large circle out of white card stock. Lightly sketch in 12 equal-sized sectors, radiating from the center point (you will later erase the lines). In each “piece of the pie,” draw and label each of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals. Attach an arrow made from red card stock with a metal paper fastener.
Try it: Chinese Animal Zodiac Clocks at BakerRoss.co.uk
4. Read Peppa’s Chinese New Year adapted by Mandy Archer and Cala Spinner and watch a Chinese New Year movie
Book: When their teacher tells Peppa and her friends that it’s time to celebrate Chinese New Year, they couldn’t be more excited! They have a blast hanging lanterns, eating fortune cookies, and putting on a dragon dance.
Buy it: Peppa’s Chinese New Year at Amazon
Activity: This YouTube video from Oddbods is the perfect way to teach kids about the Lunar New Year.
Try it: Chinese New Year Special on YouTube
5. Read Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas by Natasha Yim and write your own version of the story
Book: This is a clever Chinese American retelling of the classic Goldie Locks fairy tale. In this version, clumsy and forgetful Goldy Luck is sent to deliver turnip cakes to her neighbor. She stumbles into the home of the Three Pandas and makes a real mess, Goldilocks-style.
Buy it: Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas at Amazon
Activity: Looking for Lunar New Year writing activities? Share this story and maybe a couple more modern retellings of fairy tales. Challenge your students to write their own fractured fairy tale starring a rabbit to honor the Chinese Year of the Rabbit.
6. Read Happy, Happy Chinese New Year! by Demi and make these Chinese pellet drums
Book: This delightfully illustrated book by Demi is a detailed celebration of the many exciting aspects of the Lunar New Year. Infused with joy and filled with information!
Buy it: Happy, Happy Chinese New Year! at Amazon
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.
Try it: Chinese Pellet Drums at Gift of Curiosity
7. Read Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin and make these Chinese New Year dragon puppets
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!
Buy it: Bringing in the New Year at Amazon
Activity: The dragon is a colorful and important element of traditional Lunar 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!
Try it: Chinese New Year Dragon Puppets at My Poppet Makes
8. Read Hiss! Pop! Boom! Celebrating Chinese New Year by Tricia Morrissey and make these easy fireworks paintings
Book: Beautifully illustrated with Chinese brush painting and elegant calligraphy, this story delivers the sights and sounds of the Lunar New Year celebration.
Buy it: Hiss! Pop! Boom! Celebrating Chinese New Year at Amazon
Activity: For this Lunar New Year 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!
Try it: Easy Fireworks Paintings at Danya Banya
9. Read Long-Long’s New Year: A Story About the Chinese Spring Festival by Catherine Gower and He Zhihong and make these goldfish kites
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.
Buy it: Long-Long’s New Year: A Story About the Chinese Spring Festival at Amazon
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.
Try it: Goldfish Kites at Lightly Enchanted
10. Read Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats by Nina Simonds and Leslie Swartz and make these Chinese New Year snakes
Book: This stunning compilation of fun family activities, delicious recipes, and traditional read-aloud tales is a celebration of the many facets of the Lunar New Year tradition.
Buy it: Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats at Amazon
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.
Try it: Chinese New Year Snakes at Craftiments
What are your favorite Lunar New Year activities in the classroom? Come share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.
Plus, check out our favorite ideas for Black History Month and Presidents’ Day.