As a parent and as a teacher, I really love exposing my kids to different cultures and traditions. When I taught kindergarten, I always worked in a week long unit on Chinese New Year, also called Spring Festival. As a mom, now I do the same thing at home. Here are a few ideas to get you started on celebrating this tradition rich festival with your own family.
Share Books About Chinese New Year
Maybe it’s the teacher in me, or maybe it’s the book lover. Either way, I always start off any holiday or season by finding the best children’s books to help explain the basics.
- My First Chinese New Year – Karen Katz – This is a great book for younger readers. The text is very simple and the information is fairly basic. I love the vibrant illustrations that really hold the attention of a preschool and young school age audience.
- Lanterns and Firecrackers – Jonny Zucker and Jan Barger Cohen – Another great book for young readers, Lanterns and Firecrackers uses simple text and colorful illustrations to show what a family does to prepare and celebrate Chinese New Year.
- Celebrating Chinese New Year – Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith – This book is pretty text rich and provides a lot of information. I love that it has the look of a real nonfiction text. The book is full of photographs of a young boy going through the preparations and celebrations of Chinese New Year in San Francisco.
- In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson – Bette Bao Lord – While not specifically about Chinese New Year, this is a great chapter book for intermediate grade readers that gives insight to the transition of a young girl coming to America as a Chinese immigrant in the late 1940’s. While neither of my readers are at this level yet, I can definitely picture us reading this together one day and talking about the challenges young “Shirley Temple Wong” faces.
Enjoy Some Chinese Food!
What better way to gain understanding and appreciation of a culture than to dive into the food? While it’s true that General Tso’s Chicken is a far cry from true, traditional Chinese fare, the experience of going to a decent Chinese restaurant is one worth having. The decor, the people, and sometimes the music can help children really see aspects of a culture other than their own.
You can also try to whip up some Chinese food at home. I’ve attempted egg rolls many times, and while I don’t really have a specific recipe, it’s always a fun family adventure. You can also pick up some Asian Pears at the grocery store or see if your town has an asian specific store where you could try traditional Chinese candies.
Let your kids cut shapes out of red paper, have them paint with red paint, or just practice writing with red crayons. The color red is a symbol of good luck and happiness and is found everywhere during Spring Festival. You can even place small gifts or money in red envelopes and give them to your children.
Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) is a great opportunity to learn about the values and traditions of another culture. Whether you go all out and celebrate with your family all week long (though the actual festival lasts 15 days), or just add a book into your bedtime story routine, enriching our children’s lives with the knowledge of new traditions is always a good thing.
Hung Hay Fat Choy!
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