Sunday, February 10th, 2013
As a Chinese American who celebrates Lunar New Year, today commemorates the beginning of Year of the Snake. Chinese New Year is about more than just the twelve animals on the paper placemat at your favorite Chinese restaurant. There’s a lot of history and tradition behind the day that you can share with curious children who want to learn more. Here are four activities you can do as a family along with a list of favorite stories that we always read around the start of Chinese New Year. Gung Hay Fat Choy!
Start by printing out the story of the Chinese Zodiac to read together. This child-friendly version is not only easy for early fluent readers to read but it helps them understand the folklore behind the creatures that are part of the zodiac.
Figure out zodiac animal you are. Unlike the placemat on your table at your local Chinese restaurant may indicate, the Chinese Zodiac is actually a little more complicated than it seems. Many calendars like those you see on placemats at Chinese restaurants follow the western calendar that begins on January 1. They don’t take into account that those with January birthdays (like my daughter’s) might fall under a different sign since Chinese New Year is determined by the lunar calendar. The Chinese Zodiac Sign Calculator features a helpful calculator that takes into account your actual day of birth to figure out which animal you are. I also like that this site will give you a link so you can read and print the character traits for your animal sign. Discuss whether your zodiac animal bears any resemblance to your personality!
Learn a little bit more about China through National Geographic Kids. This easy to navigate website features a slide show of images with helpful facts about geography, nature, history, people, culture, and government. There’s also a short video and a map that shows where China is on the continent of Asia.
Beginning readers will enjoy making a mini book of words associated with Chinese New Year.
Read some stories together. Here are some of our family’s favorite picture books that can be fabulous read-alouds to learn more about Chinese New Year customs and the Chinese culture:
- Celebrating Chinese New Year
- Dragon Dance
- The Dancing Dragon
- Lanterns and Firecrackers: A Chinese New Year Story (Festival Time)
- The Runaway Wok: A Chinese New Year Tale
- Sam and the Lucky Money
- Bringing in the New Year
- My First Chinese New Year
- Fortune Cookie Fortunes
- Yum Yum Dim Sum
Vector Snake Calligraphy, Chinese New Year 2013 via Shutterstock