Lunar New Year - In the West, we celebrate New Year as the clocks change from 11.59pm to midnight on December 31st. But this is not the only New Year that is celebrated around the world, and in February, many people celebrate the Lunar New Year, or as many in Eastern cultures also know it, Chinese New Year.  

Unlike the Western New Year, which is set on the same day every year, the date of Lunar New Year changes as the phase of the moon fluctuates. So, in 2024, Lunar New Year occurs on February 10th, and ends with the Lantern Festival on the 15th.  

In some Asian cultures, such as China, South and North Korea and Singapore, the New Year, each year is also associated with an animal from the zodiac. These animals range from pigs to monkeys, but this year, we are moving from the year of the Rabbit to the year of the Dragon, or more specifically, the Wood Dragon. Surprisingly, if you were born in any of the previous Dragon years, then tradition says that the coming year will be an unlucky rather than a lucky one! The 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. This system for naming years has been in common use for about the last 2000 years but some say it goes back even further to around 2637 BCE when it was reportedly invented. 

The lunar cycle lasts between 29 or 30 days and there are 12 cycles in each year, although in order to keep up with the solar calendar that the West uses, an extra month is added every 2 to 3 years, much like the addition of February 29th every 4 years in the solar calendar. 

Lunar or Chinese New Year is a great way to introduce the children to different cultures and traditions from around the world, so get ready to party and educate the children at the same time. Look at some of our ideas and bring some cheer to those dreary, February days.  

Chinese Cookery And Food For Lunar New Year

Nothing introduces little ones to the culture quicker than trying different foods and you can expand their taste buds and experiences at the same time. One suggestion is to create a small ‘banquet’ of small dishes of different types of food. Think about using plain or flavoured rice such as egg fried rice, sweet and sour chicken, spring rolls or toffee bananas. You can find some good recipes on the BBC or Twinkl website.  

Red Envelopes 

You may have noticed that red is the dominant colour in many Chinese decorations around this time and that is because it is considered very lucky. One tradition is that children receive money in red envelopes which represent luck and prosperity, and you can make your own envelopes easily with some red card or paper. The children can decorate them with signs of the sun, moon and stars, or anything else they like. Be careful about the money that you put in as the numbers are important. In China, the number 8 is considered lucky, but the number 4 is considered the opposite.  

Zodiac Animals 

With so many different animals in the Chinese zodiac, this a great opportunity to think about the characteristics of each different animal. You could use these as the basis of different sessions for the children including: 

  • Movement and drama - ask the children to move around the room pretending to be each animal and ask them to think about how the animals move and what sound they make 
  • Arts and crafts – make a mobile, wall poster or display area showing each of the animals, or even just the Dragon! You can make the animals in 2D such as paper or card, or in 3D using playdough, clay or even snow! 
  • Science – think about where each animal comes from and add them to a map of the world 

Lunar New Year Storytime 

Read the children stories related to Lunar New Year and/or people in China and explain that the world is full of different people who have different cultures and beliefs. There are a lot of different books which are easily available on the internet or even some animated versions on YouTube.  

Dress Up For Lunar New Year 

Ask the children to dress up as their favourite zodiac animal. You could also arrange to make one large Chinese dragon and work out a dragon dance. Ask the children to dress in red and use a blanket or sheet to cover the children in the ‘body’. Make a mask from papier mâché or card for the leader to carry whilst the others become the body. You could make more than one and then create a dance to some music.

Chinese Lanterns 

Everyone will love making Chinese lanterns from paper. See https://www.firstpalette.com/craft/paper-lantern.html for some easy ideas on how to make them 3D, or you could make them in 2D by gluing bits of paper onto card like a mosaic, or make one giant picture using foot and handprints. 

Chinese Writing 

Chinese writing is wonderful and quite different to the writing we use in the UK. It is also great for little ones to practice mark-making. Print out some Chinese words and encourage the children to try to copy them. You can use lots of different media here too such as sand, snow or natural elements such as twigs and leaves.                                            

Whatever you decide to do, remember to send us your images and stories to hello@parenta.com so that we can see what you have been up to.  

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