Gung Hay Fat Choy!
This New Year greeting translates to “wishing you great happiness and prosperity” in the Cantonese dialect of the Chinese language. I shared several pig-themed books to celebrate the Year of the Pig on Play & Grow’s Facebook page as well as a fingerplay to do with your kiddo. I’d really appreciate it if you could visit, like and share with friends that page!
Chinese New Year has been celebrated for thousands of years. According to legend, it started with the fight against a mythical beast called the Year (Nian in Chinese). This beast looked like an ox, but had the head of a lion, and was believed to live in the sea. People feared the Year. On New Year’s Eve night, the Year would come out to harm animals, people, their homes and properties.
Just as the more, modern-day monster Frankenstein was afraid of fire, the Year also feared fire; as well as the color red and loud sounds. Eventually, the Chinese people discovered this and started posting red Dui Lian* in front of their houses, launching fireworks and hanging lanterns.
Chinese New Year lasts 15 days and ends with the Lantern Festival. Another important aspect of the celebrating is the Dragon Dance. Most large cities, on the West Coast in particular, have an International District. Visit Seattle’s International District; enjoy a dragon dance and more!
Learn more about Chinese New Year and Chinese culture in general with these books:
READ: The Dragon Dance by Marcia Vaughan and watch your child’s amazement grow as the dragon becomes longer and longer! And
D is for Dragon Dance, A China Alphabet by Carol Crane. This may give you the impression there are ‘letters’ in the Chinese language. There aren’t. But this book does a good job in sharing different customs and some of the history of China.
We All Live On One Earth…
I believe that people are more alike than they are different, but there are cultural differences. One of the differences is the way we write. English is written on a page, typically in paragraphs, from left to right, top to bottom. Chinese is written in columns right to left; top to bottom. That is a significant difference to be sure, but the one that’s more straightforward and obvious perhaps is the alphabet vs characters that are written. The Chinese language is made up of characters. representing words, and children learn the art of calligraphy.
Let your kiddo experience a little of what calligraphy is like with the following activity.
Enrich the Learning: Calligraphy
As you learned in D is for Dragon Dance, the letter F, is for the four treasures of study for calligraphy: brush, ink, paper and ink stone. We’ll amend the materials list somewhat for the following activity.
● Tray or newsprint on paper to protect workspace
● Paint Brushes
● Black Tempera Cakes or black tempera paint
● Construction Paper in RED cut in 7” diameter circles
● Construction Paper White for practicing
● Small Water Cups
● Gold Glitter (optional)
● Sample Chinese characters –see below
● Set up a work space for your child
● Prepare paint
● Share the Chinese characters for friendship and peace; review the difference between words made up of letters vs characters conveying words
● Have your kiddo choose a character
● Let your kidlet practice making the character
● Once they feel they can recreate the character, bring out the red paper circles
NOTE: Remind your child of the importance of the color red and share the importance of the circle in Chinese culture. The circle stands for ‘fulfilled’, ‘oneness’, ‘perfection’, ‘unity’.
● Optional: Sprinkle glitter over the wet paint
● Let dry
● Repeat with the other character if desired
Click here if you’d like to learn a little more about calligraphy.
Extending the Learning: Moon Watch
Chinese New Year is the festival that marks the beginning of the year on the traditional Chinese calendar. The Chinese calendar is associated with the lunar calendar. So, why not have your kiddo track the phases of the moon (and more) with this Night Sky activity!
One of the wonderful things about the USA is we have the blessing of many different festivals and holidays brought over from various countries. Embrace the color RED (not only for women’s heart health) but because for Chinese New Year it is the emblem of joy and symbolizes virtue, truth and sincerity.
Yours in Play!
* Dui Lian are rhyming pairs of verse written vertically down the sides of a doorway.