Chinese New Year
A Unit Study for Homeschoolers
新年快乐 Happy Chinese New Year! Take your children on a fascinating cultural experience -- celebrate Chinese New Year!
Chinese New Year is the celebration of a new lunar year. It is a fifteen day holiday that starts on the evening of the second new moon after the winter solstice. This is sometime in January or February each year. This holiday ends with the Lantern Festival on the 15th day.
In China, this holiday is also called Spring Festival 春节 Chun Jie since it marks the change in the weather from bitter cold to the coming of warmer weather.
The Chinese Zodiac
According to the lunar calendar, time operates in cycles of twelve years. Each year is represented by an animal: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. The lunar calendar even has a "leap lunar year" with an entire extra MONTH added in!
The lunar calendar is also considered a farmer's calendar since it is used to make decisions related to agriculture.
There is a folk story that explains how each animal was assigned to its year.
The animals were assembled for a race. The rat knew since he was such a small animal, he had no chance to win honestly. He conviced the ox to let him ride on his head. Just as they were about to arrive, the crafty rat jumped down and crossed the finish line as the winner.
This is why the year of the rat is the first year in the cycle and the year of the ox is the second.
A practical craft idea is to make a year calendar featuring the zodiac animal of that year at the top. Visit these school children's examples for inspiration.There are plenty of options for your yearly calendar graphic. Just explore some of these coloring page links:
- YOUR Chinese Zodiac Sign
Were you born in the year of the monkey? The tiger? The pig? Find out quickly with this easy form!
- Chinese Zodiac Images with Characters
These are my favorite zodiac images. Simple black and white line drawings of each animal AND the Chinese character!
- Zodiac Images
Print out these 12 squares to make a memory game, flashcards, a minibook, or a poster.
- Chinese Zodiac Sign Coloring Book
This coloring book, strangely, cannot be viewed before you print it. The cover is a full color, circular zodiac sign diagram. Then each following page features an animal coloring page with its corresponding Chinese character.
- Year of the.... Coloring Pages
Twelve cartoon style Year of the ... pages.
- Chinese Zodiac Origami
Make paper origami animal to represent the years of the zodiac! There are many options for each animal listed at this link,
Long-Long's New Year - A Story About The Chinese Spring Festival
This book is really special because it it set in China and not in an American Chinatown. A family celebrates the Spring Festival in a traditional way in this picture book.
The Color Red
The tradition is that when your zodiac year comes each twelve years, that is a special year; you should increase your good luck by wearing red everyday. Many people wear red underwear all year long!
The Story of the Chinese Zodiac
Ever wondered where the cycle of twelve animals came from? And why would the rat be first? This book explains the fun story behind the tradition.
Hong Bao -- Red Envelopes
Hong Bao -- Red Envelopes - lucky money
Making some 红包 hong bao -- literally red packets -- is a very authentic and easy craft for celebrating Chinese New Year.
At the Spring Festival, adults give children these red envelopes with gifts of cash tucked inside! (The bride and groom also receive these at their wedding.)
In English, they are sometimes also called lucky money. Make sure to use a lot of red. Gold or yellow is also popular on hong bao.
- Hong Bao Template
A PDF envelope template from Scholastic.
- Feng Shui Web
(If you are opposed to Feng Shui, choose another of the links here.) This site has a lengthy explanation and two hong bao printables in full color.
- Activity Village
This envelope template is small -- a square shape.
- Chinese Red Envelope
Print, cut, glue, and go. This is a really cute full color envelope featuring a panda theme.
- Chinese New Year Money Envelopes
Three more, full color, printable hong bao.
- Printable Lucky Money Envelopes
Several full color printable templates to cut out and assemble.
Sam and the Lucky Money
In this picture book, Sam struggles with how to spend his lucky money.
Celebrating Chinese New Year
Why do fish feature so predominantly in Chinese New Year's decorations?The Chinese word for fish 鱼 has the same sound as another word --余-- which means abundance. So eating fish on the New Year is a way to bring good luck or abundance to your family.
Make your own 3D paper fish with this wonderful template from Kiddy House. Use bright papers and string them around your home. Or connect them into a New Year's mobile.
Visit Childbook for some wonderful coloring pages that depict typical New Year's customs.
For a more indepth unit study, find one of these great activity and craft books.
Chinese New Year Cartoon Music Video
Watch this adorable video for some images of Chinese New Year. It has English translation across the top and Chinese characters across the bottom. The song is sung in Mandarin. The flag in the video is the Chinese flag.
Getting New Clothes for Chinese New Year
New Clothes -- A Chinese New Year Tradition
It is a tradition in China to buy new clothes when the new year comes. Parents buy new outfits for their children and for themselves.
Celebrate in your own way by making "new clothes" for some paper dolls.
- Making Friends Chinese Paper Dolls
These free printables feature a Chinese styled outfit. Color them red for a traditional new year's outfit.
- Winston and Lily
There are several options of paper dolls here and a complete set of Chinese new year attire.
- Chinese Dress Coloring Pages
Adorable coloring pages with little girls and boys in traditional Chinese dress.
Dui Lian -- Chinese Door Banners - sometimes called a distich
Chinese doors almost always bear decoration of some type. The 对 联 (dui lian) are the set of banners hung above and to the sides of the door. They are always red and have a message of good luck or blessings of prosperity. Any door or gate can be decorated in this way -- even a pig stall or a barn.
Usually, it is at the Chinese New Year when new banners are pasted around the door.
Be sure to look at this beautiful painting done in traditional Chinese style that depicts a man preparing his dui lian at Spring Festival.
On the doors themselves you will find one of two things - either a door god as seen to the right or a single Chinese character fu 福 which means blessing. One fascinating feature of the fu 福 decoration is that it is always placed upside down. Why? This is a bit of a pun. The word for "upside down" sounds the same as the word that means "to arrive." So they take the blessing and turn it upside down to mean "blessings arrive." It's a way of inviting blessings to the home.
Make your own dui lian with long strips of paper. Make three - one for the top and one on each side. Use the template below for your fu 福 decoration.
- Fu Printable Door Decoration
Print and add color -- red and gold are preferred. Be sure to hang it upside down so the blessings will come to you!
- Spring Festival Dui Lian
More information about Spring Festival dui lians.
- Chinese New Year Greetings Coloring Pages/Pictures
Chinese characters to embellish with color. Decorate for the New Year.
- Chinese New Year Wall & Door Scroll
More black line Chinese characters suitable for dui lian.
Lanterns and Firecrackers
The Lantern Festival
The Lantern Festival is a favorite for children. Many families give lanterns to the children who walk around outdoors showing them off. Other families set off fireworks and firecrackers. It's a wonderful evening of fun for young people and old.
- Lantern Craft and New Year's Background
A simple paper craft template for a 2D lantern to hang in a window.
- Basic Construction Paper Lantern Craft
This is the old standby lantern craft. I'm sure you've made a few of these in your own childhood.
- Chinese New Year Coloring Page
This coloring page features the words "Chinese New Year" and two lanterns. It also has a paragraph of explanation about both Chinese New Year and the Lantern Festival.
- Lantern Cakes
No boring papercraft here! This is an edible lantern. Directions for making lantern shaped cakes!
- Kids Craft Weekly-- Chinese New Year
You'll find several great Chinese New Year related crafts here. One that I especially like is a lantern made with hong bao (red packets).
- Chinese Lanterns Picture Craft
Use baking papers (for cupcakes or muffins) to create this 3D lantern picture.
Fu, a Chinese Character Meaning Blessing
Learn some Chinese characters for your unit study. The character fu 福--blessing or luck-- is a great place to start since it's a common decoration.
- Write the Character Fu
This page shows you the strokes and stroke order for making the character FU which means blessing or luck. This is a popular character all over China, and especially during the New Year.
- Chinese Character Cards
Four pages of printable character cards and several ideas for how to use them.
- Fu Minibook Template and Directions
Bookmaking with Kids blog shares a fun minibook idea, complete with printable template.
- Fu Poster to Color
This is a template I made. It's just a simple poster to print and decorate. Be sure to use a lot of red and gold and hang it upside down so the blessing will come to you.
- Chinese Note Paper
This is an attractive lined paper with a Chinese graphic in the corner. It would make great paper for practicing writing characters!
- Chinese Themed Stationery
Another printable notebooking or stationery page.
- Get Your Own Chinese Name
You know you need one -- your very own Chinese name.
- Chinese Greeting Cards
Printable Valentines, but these cute card templates could be use any time of the year. Featured characters are love, joy, and happiness.
- Chinese Character Coloring Pictures
Each coloring page features the traditional Chinese character plus its English pronunciation.
- Practice Two Chinese Characters
This reproducible page from Scholastic features two characters -- spring and wealth.
D is for Doufu: An Alphabet Book of Chinese Culture
This book is a great place to start a study of Chinese characters!
Other Printables - And Online Fun
These didn't fit neatly into another category, but are far too good to omit.
- Chinese Coloring Pages
A great selection of Chinese zodiac animals, lanterns, lantern festival, Chinese kites, and more.
- Pagoda Printable
Black and white pagoda image that would be great for the cover and template of a shape book about China.
- PBS Kids Sagwa Countdown to the New Year
Several interactive games teach traditions of the new year.
- Chinese New Year Crafts by The Lazy Stay-at-Home Mommy
Each year since 2005, this mom has chronicled the crafts she's done with her children for Chinese New Year. It's a new craft each year!
- East Asian Peoples
Some PDF craft ideas for Chinese New Year or Chinese culture in general.