Chinese New Year: An All-American Holiday

UNITED STATES

A new generation is forming its own relationship with Chinese New Year, an Asian holiday that’s in the midst of becoming an Asian American one. (Los Angeles Times)

Celebrate Chinese New Year with our great new study guide!

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit, including free worksheets and coloring pages.

Lion dances are a go-to symbol of Chinese New Year. In a lion dance, two dancers in a gorgeously stylized costume work together to mimic the movements of a wild lion. This pride is congregating in the savannas of Paris, France. Photograph by Myrabella, courtesy Wikimedia. CC BY SA 4.0

Lion dances are a go-to symbol of Chinese New Year. In a lion dance, two dancers in a gorgeously stylized costume work together to mimic the movements of a wild lion. This pride is congregating in the savannas of Paris, France.
Photograph by Myrabella, courtesy Wikimedia. CC BY SA 4.0

Discussion Ideas

  • Why are Chinese communities celebrating the new year in the middle of February? Read through the background info in our short study guide for some help.
    • The historic Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar, meaning dates are determined by both the moon (lunar) and the sun (solar). (Sometimes, it’s just considered a lunar calendar, and Asian nations outside China use similar calendars. For this reason, organizations might call Chinese New Year the “Lunar New Year.”)
    • In the Chinese lunisolar calendar, months begin with every new moon, when the moon is not visible in the night sky. The new year starts on the new moon nearest the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, sometime between January 21 and February 20.

 

  • The fun Los Angeles Times article mentions the “exacting customs” of Chinese New Year. What are some of those customs, traditions, or superstitions? Read through the article and look through our Chinese New Year study guide for some help.
    • Clean up! Cleaning symbolizes ridding the household of the previous year’s bad luck and making the home welcoming to good luck in the coming year. (On the first several days of the festival, tradition holds that brooms be stored, so that the newly arrived good luck will not be swept away.)
    • Start to see red! Red is the color of joy and good fortune in Chinese cultures, and is most strongly associated with new year celebrations. The most famous appearance of red during Chinese New Year might be lai see (Cantonese) or hong bao (Mandarin), the famous red envelopes filled with money.
    • See your family! The family reunions surrounding Chinese New Year are nothing less than the “greatest human migration” on Earth. Read more about it here.
    • Light up! The bright lights of the Lantern Festival celebrate the first full moon after Chinese New Year. The colorful lanterns, displayed outdoors as well as inside temples, are associated with guiding lost souls home.

 

  • Read through the short L.A. Times article. What are two ways globalization is redefining Chinese New Year customs?
    • Music. In addition to the traditional flutes and cymbals accompanying lion and dragon dances, Chinese New Year in Los Angeles will include mariachi bands and hip-hop MCs.
    • Food. Traditional dumplings and new year cake will be accompanied by Korean tacos and craft beers.

 

  • According to the L.A. Times, dumplings symbolize wealth while nian gao, a “sticky red bean cake” is associated with Chinese New Year. Why do dumplings symbolize wealth? What is so special about nian gao? Read through the questions in our study guide for some help.
    • The crimped, tapering shape of the edges of half-moon shaped dumplings are similar to the shape of ancient Chinese gold ingots. These ingots, called yuanbao, were used as currency in China for more than 1,000 years. Here are a group of silver yuanbao ingots, and here are some uncooked dumplings.
    • Nian gao is a sweet, sticky rice cake simply called “new year’s cake” in many Mandarin-speaking regions of China and Chinese communities. Nian gao is a homonym for “higher year.” Tradition holds that eating nian gao encourages the consumer to lift themself up to a higher income, higher professional position, higher education, or higher self-worth with the coming year.

 

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

Los Angeles Times: Lunar New Year is morphing into an all-American holiday with taco trucks, beatboxing and beer

Nat Geo: Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Nat Geo: The World’s Greatest Human Migration is Happening Right Now

The Telegraph: When is Chinese New Year 2016? Everything you need to know about the Year of the Monkey

Childbook: Chinese New Year Worksheets and Coloring Pages

One response to “Chinese New Year: An All-American Holiday

  1. Pingback: What Did You Read in 2017? | Nat Geo Education Blog·

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