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Exploring the Chinese New Year: Lesson Plan for Grades 3-5

written by: bcronin • edited by: Laurie Patsalides • updated: 11/18/2012

This lesson plan will guide students in exploring the most celebrated Chinese holiday, the Chinese New Year. Students will learn about customs, superstitions and traditions of this holiday.

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    The teacher should become familiar with the many traditions and customs associated with the Chinese New Year.Teacher should identify websites that will be helpful for students to research Chinese New Year.Teacher should gather materials for students to make a craft; dragon, lantern or paper cuts.

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    Two class periods (50 minutes each)

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    • Begin class with a discussion of our New Year’s celebration.

    • What are we celebrating? What are our customs and traditions?

    • Ask the students what they know about the Chinese New Year’s celebration.

    • Brainstorm and list ideas about this holiday.

    • Discuss the following points with the students (lead them into discovering the facts themselves

    when possible):

    1. The Chinese New Year is the most important traditional Chinese celebration.

    2. Other names for the holiday are:Lunar New Year, Spring Festival, etc.

    3. Chinese New Year is an official public holiday in China.

    4. The Chinese New Year is also celebrated widely in Taiwan, Korea, Mongolia, Nepal, Vietnam, Japan and Bhutan.

    5. The Chinese New Year is traditionally a 15-day celebration with each day having special customs and significance.

    6. The 15th day is also called the Lantern Festival.

    • Discuss with the class how they think the Chinese New Year began, stories about it they have heard and what they have seen in celebrations they may have observed.

    • Tell the students the following story, which is a mythological story about how the Chinese New Year began:

    The Chinese New Year began with a fight between a mythological beast called Nian or “Year." The beast would come into the villages on the first day of the year and devour livestock, crops and even villagers. (He was said to especially like children.) The villagers began to put food on their doorsteps on the first day of the year so that Nian wouldn't eat their foods and families. One day Nian saw a child wearing red; he ran in terror.The villagers concluded that he was afraid of the color red. From that day on villagers began to hang red lanterns and red items in windows and doors for the first day of the year to ward off Nian.

    • Discuss with the class the following traditions occurring before the first day of the Chinese New Year:

    1. Home cleansing: Homes and businesses are cleaned up. This is to clean out bad luck and make room for good luck.

    2. Brooms and dustpans are hidden before the first day so that good luck can’t be swept away.

    3. New coats of red paint are put on windows, doors, and other outside visible places of the house.

    4. New clothes, shoes and haircuts to signify a fresh start.

    5. Lion dance troupes usher in the New Year and evict bad spirits.

    6. No meat is consumed.

    7. All food is cooked prior to the first day of the New Year; forks and knives are said to be bad luck on the first day of the New Year.

    • Talk with the class about the 15-day celebration of the Chinese New Year.

    • Divide class into groups and assign each group a day or few days to research.

    • Students should focus on customs, myths, superstitions, foods, gifts, activities, decorations, clothing and symbolism that those celebrating the traditional Chinese New Year take part in on their assigned days.

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    • Ask students to do some at home research and allow class time in the beginning of the next class to research.

    • Ask students to present their findings.

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    Students can create a decoration as a group or individually they discovered during their research.