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Tuesday, February 17

8 Children's Activities for Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is a specific day on the lunar calendar, but also a holiday spaced out.  I liken it to the time between Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve (accept if NYE came first and two weeks later we celebrated Christmas).  The first day of the Chinese holiday season is the 'Spring Festival'.  This is New Year's Eve and New Year's Day in the lunar calendar.

The days leading up to the new year are bustling.  Homes are getting tidier than they've been all year  (families will even go so far as to repaint fences and scrub outside windows).  It is bad luck to bring old hurts and worries into the new year.  It is a time for everyone to come clean and clear the slate. Debts are paid, indiscretions are forgiven, and gifts of good luck and prosperity are exchanged.

Fifteen days after the Spring Festival, the full moon rises and the Lantern Festival is celebrated.  It is a separate holiday from Chinese New Year.

In 2015, we are welcoming the Year of the Sheep. In some calendars this sheep becomes a goat or ram. The Sheep year heralds sensitivity, intelligence, diplomacy, critical thinking, gentleness, and compassion. Unfortunately, Chinese children born in sheep years are considered "unlucky" as they are deemed too sensitive and soft. I say phooey. Mama Stacey is a sheep. She is also a Cancer. She's a huge ball of sensitive and thinky and wishes more of the world had been born as sheep.

While the Chinese New Year is hardly Pagan, it is based on the lunar calendar and it is a lovely celebration of prosperity and renewal. If you and your children would like to explore, try these activities out.

#1  Lucky Chinese Playdough

The color red is associated with joy, good fortune, and prosperity.  It also represents the element of Fire within Chinese culture.  Gold represents the element of metal and carries the the blessings of fulfillment.  Fairy Dust Teaching shows us how to make a bold red playdough flecked with "gold dust".  One can never have too much gold glitter around the house. 

#2 Chinese Pellet Drum
The paper plate variety is larger than a traditional pellet drum, but we think it works just as well.  These beauties do double duty as children's noise makers at festivals and serious ritual instruments on religious occasions.  If you've seen Karate Kid II, then you know how to use one.  Gift of Curiosity shows you how to make these so that your little ones can clatter in the lunar new year.  If you'd like to decorate with stickers, as seen here, Dover offers inexpensive and cute Chinese sticker sheets and books.

#3 Paper Lanterns
The Chinese New Year celebration includes lots of red, including red lanterns.  Lanterns will take their turn in the spot light during the Lantern Festival, but still have a lucky presence during the Spring Festival.  Sturdy for Common Things shows us how to create red paper lanterns with a nice bright yellow core so that they look to be glowing. 

#4  Chinese Dumplings
Dumplings symbolize wealth.  They have endless filling combinations, although pork is popular.   Children will need some help to get these done, but they will give your celebration a real touch of authenticity.  Charlotte, over at My Kids Adventures, has written a very nice tutorial with lots of photos.  If you are having a hard time finding "dumpling wrappers", wonton dough can be used. 

If these beauties start to test your patience, remember this:  "That's how life works.  You may doubt you'll be able to pull off a complicated recipe, but your 5-year-old has absolute faith in you..." Rita Buettner of Catholic Review.
That’s how life works. You may doubt you’ll be able to pull off a complicated recipe, but your 5-year-old has absolute faith in you - See more at:
That’s how life works. You may doubt you’ll be able to pull off a complicated recipe, but your 5-year-old has absolute faith in you - See more at:
That’s how life works. You may doubt you’ll be able to pull off a complicated recipe, but your 5-year-old has absolute faith in you - See more at:

#5  Firecracker Wards
Bundles of firecrackers are often lit just before the main feast to ward off bad spirits.  If you have small sparklers and leftover whizzing fun from this past summer, go ahead and light them.  However, if your children are too young and it's too cold to be outside (sparklers and mittens DO NOT MIX), hanging a bundle of ceremonial firecrackers up should be enough to ward your home.  This craft comes to us from the now-defunct Kaboose website.  Home Seasons was wise enough to transfer the information over before it became lost.  You will find instructions on her site, but go ahead and play around with whatever you have in your home.  You can either wrap the tubes in red paper, or paint them with a nice bold red paint

#6  Dragon Mask
The Dragon is a beholder of good fortune and luck.  The dancing dragon is a popular performance ritual that is performed at the New Year.  Visit China Highlights for free streamable traditional Chinese New Year and Spring Festival music, complete with lyrics.  Children should put on their dragon mask and dance to welcome the new year.  The longer the dance, the more positivity will be bestowed upon the community.  Alpha Mom offers a free printable so that your children can dress as the majestic dragon for the Chinese New Year.  Amazon has a nice offering of Chinese celebration music that you can play while decorating and cooking. 

#7  'Year of the Sheep' Sticky Rice Balls
Sticky rice balls are super easy to make and a traditional food during Chinese holidays.  2015 is the year of the Sheep (or Ram or Goat, depending on the region).  These are too cute not to make this Thursday.  Anna the Red has an step-by-step guide on her blog, so you can help your children make these.  If you've never made sticky rice balls, visit B Being Cool for a basic recipe.  Sushi rice is recommended.  You can even stuff them, if you're feeling bold. 

#8  Couplets
A couplet is a banner hung beside the entrance to your home.  These are good luck banners to usher good tidings and good fortune into your home for the coming year.   Traditionally, they include two lines of rhyme in Chinese calligraphy.  The Paper Pear shows you how to write these on her blog.  You can use Chinese characters or, if your children are younger, write a happy poem about prosperity, happiness, and cheer.  You can add rainbows and smiley faces and the like, if Chinese characters are difficult for your younger children to draw.  If this is something you might enjoy doing every year, I'd recommend purchasing a roll of red banner paper so that your couplets can be a true scroll-length. 

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