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Twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac represent each year and continue with a repeated cycle including the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. In 2017, the Chinese New Year begins on January 27, 2017 and ends on February 2. It is the Year of the Rooster.
During the Chinese New Year celebration, presents are bought, decorations adorn the homes, special foods are made and new clothes are worn. Days before the holiday, Chinese families clean and prepare their homes. Chinese beliefs state that cleaning takes away any bad luck and allows the home to receive good luck. Brooms and dustpans are tucked away on New Year’s Eve so good luck cannot be swept away. In many homes, red paint trims the doors and windowpanes. The color red is a symbol of happiness to the Chinese.
The New Year’s Eve supper is a feast with all family members together. Families play board games and cards until the wee hours in the morning. At midnight, fireworks light the sky symbolizing the end of the old year and welcoming the brand new year. The Chinese people have a tradition to open all the windows and doors in the home to let the old year go out.
In the morning, the children receive a New Year present from their parents. They receive lucky red envelopes (called Laisee) with money inside. The holiday is celebrated for many days, each day devoted to a different tradition. The Festival of the Lantern begins fifteen days after New Year’s Day. It is celebrated with lantern shows and folk dances. Children display their lanterns in a nighttime parade, where the Chinese people welcome the first full moon of the New Year. Chinese New Year customs vary from place to place, but the spirit underlying this diverse celebration is the same; a sincere wish of peace and happiness for all family members and friends.
Engage your students in several of these cultural activities to understand this festive holiday better.
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Invite the children to paint white envelopes red with tempera paint. Let these dry until the celebration begins. Teachers or homeschooling parents can place a shiny penny into each envelope as a token of good luck.
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Cut circles (8 inches in diameter) from poster board. Cut small squares of colorful tissue paper (hues of red). Invite your students to brush the entire circle with white school glue and to place the tissue squares on, overlapping each piece. Decorate both circles, letting each dry thoroughly. Chinese calligraphy is a great way to decorate this fan, especially if the sign represents the animals of the Chinese Zodiac. These symbols can be found in books or on the Internet.
Print up this page and cut out the symbols, gluing them randomly on the fan (or draw the symbols on paper). Make a handle by inserting a tongue depressor in between the two circles. Glue this in place.
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Fortune cookies can be easily bought at stores today. They are a fun snack to eat and read about your destiny. “Make Your Own Fortunes" is an activity to do with the children. Think of fortunes to write on slips of paper. They can be serious or silly. Instead of cookies, place these slips into balloons (one for each member of the class). Blow up all the balloons and release them in the air. The kids capture a balloon and break it to release their fortune. This activity ends the festival with a BANG!
Safety Note: This is an activity for older children, as small pieces of balloons can become a choking hazard.
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You will need two disposable aluminum foil pie pans for each gong. Decorate the pans first with paint, permanent markers, adhesive stickers or glued on cutouts. Ideas could be Chinese calligraphy, Chinese zodiac animals, dragons or red flowers. The Chinese dragon is a symbol of strength and goodness. Spread a bead of super glue all around the plate rims. Place a handful of dried beans or popcorn kernels inside and glue the two pans together. Place some clothespins around the pan to clamp it for drying. Poke a hole in the top to thread a ribbon as a hanger. With the “gong” in hand, walk around the room and hit the metallic chime with the eraser end of an unsharpened pencil.
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Year of the Rooster Puppet
Each year, one of the animals of the Chinese zodiac is represented. The rooster is the chosen animal for 2017. Make a paper bag puppet with a rooster face. You can find large pictures in coloring books or draw one free hand. Place the head on the bottom flap of the bag and a mouth portion just under the flap. Glue these into place. Each child can place his hand inside the bag to manipulate this puppet. Talk about the rooster: the sounds it makes, how it walks, where it lives and why it is chosen the symbol of this year’s Chinese New Year. A great “how to” book with drawing templates is called Bag Puppets by Donalyn Easterday. Encourage your students to make other bag puppets representing the other animals in the Chinese zodiac.
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On the fifteenth day, (last day) of the New Year festival, family members carry a lighted lantern in a parade. The people are marching along side friends in a silk and bamboo covered dragon costume. Make your own lanterns with colorful construction paper. Fold a 9 1/2" x 11" piece of construction paper in half lengthwise. Draw a line across the paper one inch from the top. Show your students how to cut slits about an inch apart from the fold up to the line. Unfold; curve the lantern around and staple. Attach a paper handle.
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Egg Drop Soup
If a kitchen is available, make and sample egg drop soup with your students.
3 cups chicken broth soup
2 eggs (beaten)
One-half teaspoon salt
One-half cup frozen peas
Heat the chicken broth in a saucepan to a rapid boil. Add the salt first and slowly pour the beaten eggs. Carefully, let the children watch the egg form into shapes and flowers. Fold in the peas and heat thoroughly. Serve in small bowls.
(Note: You may need to increase the amount of ingredients to accommodate the number of children you have in your group. This recipe makes a cup of soup for three children.)