Celebrating Chinese New Year in the Classroom

Chinese New Year traditionally begins in late January or early February. It’s a perfect opportunity for students to learn about another culture and celebrate Chinese New Year in your classroom! 

Traditional Chinese New Year celebrations begin on the first day of a new lunar year (which always start on a new moon) and end with the Lantern Festival on the full moon 15 days later. So what is there to do during the two-week celebration? Lots of things!

Decorate

One popular Chinese New Year custom is to hang signs and posters on doors and windows that have the Chinese word fu on them. This word translates to luck and happiness. Fresh flowers are also quite popular for decorating homes for Chinese New Year. To observe this tradition in your classroom, you can have students make posters or use craft kits to create symbolic Chinese New Year decorations. 

Learn the Animal

Each year on the Chinese calendar is associated with one of 12 different animals of the Chinese zodiac. Learn more about this year’s animal as a class and then make decorations that honor that animal. Kids will also enjoy learning what their particular Chinese zodiac animal is.

Feast
Sharing meals with relatives is also an important part of Chinese New Year celebrations. Usually eight or nine dishes are served, and many of the foods are symbolic. For instance, dumplings may be served because they look like golden nuggets. Long noodles may be served because they symbolize long life. Use Chinese New Year decorations to transform your classroom and then have children sample a food or two to get a “taste” of another culture. You can even purchase traditional Chinese sweets (fortune cookies, anyone?) to handout during class. Chopsticks are optional!

Give Gifts

It is traditional for adults to give children little red envelopes (hong bao) filled with coins to symbolize wealth and prosperity for the coming year. As a sign of respect, children bow three times before accepting the hong bao. 

This tradition can easily be practiced in the classroom. Place pretend coins (or even chocolate coins) in little red envelopes to give the children and explain the significance of this tradition.

Make Lanterns

Chinese New Year celebrations come to an end on the fifteenth day of the New Year. It is on that day the Lantern Festival takes place. This festival celebrates the first full moon of the year and represents the coming of springtime. Families gather to light lanterns to symbolize the brightness of spring. Lanterns are hung on walls or poles and carried in parades. You can make your own lantern crafts to hang around the classroom or send home with students to decorate their homes.  No time to create crafts? Gather some flashlights and create your own “lanterns”.  

Have a Parade

Some cities have an annual Chinese New Year parade, and you can follow their lead and have a Chinese New Year Parade at your school. Children can make decorations and masks and then parade through your classroom or school halls to show off their creativity. 

Once Chinese New Year is over, it’s on to Valentine’s Day. Get some helpful Valentine’s Day party planning tips for your classroom here.