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Lunar New Year



Suitable for children: 
Mother and child in traditional Chinese dress

Lunar New Year is celebrated by many Asian cultures. It is usually in January or February, begins on the night of the new moon and continues until the moon is full 15 days later. Dragons and lions, food, the colour red, and money are all part of the celebrations. Like many other cultures, the New Year is a time for a fresh start and it is important to clean the house, have a haircut and buy new clothes. The Lunar New Year is also about good luck for the year ahead and this is celebrated in many ways:

  • children are given money in red envelopes for good fortune
  • special food is eaten to bring good luck
  • people wear red clothes and decorate their houses with red banners, as red is thought to be a lucky colour
  • fresh flowers are often used as decorations
  • noisemakers and firecrackers are used to scare away bad luck

Talk with your child about how you will celebrate Lunar New Year.

Will you have a dinner at home with family or will you go to a special banquet at a restaurant? What will you be eating and why do you eat it?

Have a look at the moon with your child and talk about the phases of the moon.

Is it a new moon, a half-moon or a full moon? Is it bigger tonight than it was last night or is it getting smaller?

You could make some personalised red decorations to hang up at home. Make some drawings on red paper. If you have a gold crayon or texta you could use that. You could draw flowers or dragons or copy some Chinese writing. Talk about where to hang the decorations…on the doors or windows or from the ceiling? How will you stick them up?

Materials you will need

  • Textas
  • Red paper
  • Gold crayons

Alternative tools

  • Chinese writing
  • Glitter glue

Why does this matter?

Looking at the moon helps children to notice changes and to use the language of fraction and division to describe what they see. Children will learn words such as full, half, quarter, bigger and smaller which we use to describe how big something is after we divide it.

Planning celebrations helps children to think about the sequence in which things can be done. First we decide what we are going to do, then we invite people, and then we cook. Talking about planning helps children to predict what may happen and the order it will happen in.

Making decorations helps children develop their creativity and fine motor skills.

What does this lead to?

Being observant helps children when they are learning to read, for example noticing the difference between the letters a d and a b. Having a wide vocabulary also helps children when they are reading and talking with others.

Being able to plan helps children to be organised, identify regular patterns and routines and work with others.

Having plenty of drawing experience and copying writing helps children become proficient writers.

Language to use

  • Moon, new, dark, full, crescent, phase, quarter
  • Night, sky, dark
  • Bigger, smaller, waxing, waning
  • Dinner, party, home, restaurant
  • Food, banquet
  • Decorations, banners
  • Red, gold
  • Good luck, bad luck, lucky, fortune
  • Firecrackers, noisemakers

Questions to use

  • Can you see the moon?
  • What does it look like tonight? Is it bigger or smaller than last night?

Useful tips

  1. You might also like to look at the activities New Year and Picking things up and putting things down
  2. Buy an Asian newspaper or google some Chinese writing to copy.

More ideas

  1. If you live near a Chinatown you could visit and take a look at some Chinese writing and decorations and maybe a lion or dragon dance.
  2. Make or buy some Asian food and try using chopsticks to eat it.
  3. Go to the library and find some stories about Lunar or Chinese New Year.
  4. Find some toy animals or pictures that go with the Chinese zodiac. See if you can put them in the right order.

Variation by age

Three to five year olds

  • Google the Chinese zodiac with your child. The Chinese zodiac is divided into 12 parts and each one has an animal to represent it. Every year is linked to one of these animals. What is the animal for this year? Work out which year everyone in your family was born. What animal does that make them?
  • Some Chinese people believe that the second day of the Lunar New Year is the birthday for all dogs and give them extra food. If you have a dog you could make a party for them. How old is your dog? Maybe you could count out their years in dog biscuits?
  • Make a fire-breathing dragon. Cut a small hole in the bottom of a paper cup. Cut red crepe paper or cellophane into streamers. Tape them to the inside of the cup near the small hole. Glue some pom-poms and googly eyes on for eyes. Glue a pop-stick to the bottom as a handle. When it is dry blow through the hole to make the dragon breathe ‘fire’.

Questions to ask

  • Which Chinese zodiac animal are you? Which animal am I?
  • How old is our dog? He is three.

Language to use

  • Rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, pig
  • Multiply, equals
  • Scissors, cut, tape, stick, glue
  • Cup, crepe paper, cellophane
  • Blow, fire