Global Holidays at Home: Chinese New Year

Ever wondered why the Chinese can’t just line up their new year to match the Gregorian calendar like everybody else? It’s all about the moon: the Chinese New Year (January 28, 2017) falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice. Confused? You’re not alone. The dates of the Chinese New Year change slightly every year, but the basics remain the same: For 15 days every year, with a start date between January 21 and February 20, the Chinese usher in good luck, prosperity, and well wishes for the year with food, family, and ritual.

Celebrate this year with the Chinese, as well as many other Asian countries influenced by this great eastern power. Your family can give gifts, clean the house for good luck, and have a big family reunion dinner. After all – you probably haven’t seen them since Christmas!

Lunar Longevity

Like all good holidays, the ancient tradition of the Chinese New Year began with a legend. This legend has it that a monster would come on the first day of the new year to eat crops and steal children. Villagers received word from a visiting god that they should put red on their doors and around their houses to scare the monster away – because everyone knows that monsters are afraid of red!

Thus began a proliferation of red paper and fireworks, frightening the monster away. Eventually, he was captured by a monk, but the monster’s image lives on in the brightly colored, dragon-like puppets still seen in parades and processions all around the festival.

Crafting away Monsters

A Red Ensemble to Scare the Monsters Away

Scaring away those pesky child-eating Chinese monsters and evil spirits is easy. Take your kids second-hand shopping for some plain white pajamas, or a simple collared shirt and cotton trousers. Grab a few options, choosing only natural fabrics. Then, head to your local crafting store for red fabric dye, red sequins, and fabric glue.

Take your new clothes home and soak them in a bucket with the red dye, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The longer you leave the clothes in the dye, the more red they will become. When you take the clothes out, rinse them thoroughly until the water is clean. Then, wash them in the washing machine without any other clothes. Once your new red clothes are dry and set, it’s time to get crazy with the sequins. After all, you are scaring off monsters!

Dragon and Lion Masks to Ward Off Evil Spirits

Need more monster-scaring crafting tips? Dragons and lions are common sights at Chinese New Year parades. These “tough guy” giant puppets are said to ward off evil spirits when dancing to the beat of a loud drum.

Make your own dragon or lion mask with a cardboard box. You’ll want to keep the bottom of the box intact, and cut a small hole so you can pop your child’s head through. Cut a second box in half to serve as the bottom of the dragon’s jaw. Cut small holes in the sides of your first box, as well as in the sides of your second box. Tie them together with a ribbon so your dragon’s bottom “jaw” hangs out under the rest of the dragon’s face.

Cut eye holes, and then start decorating. Paint the face red or yellow, traditional New Year’s colors, and then add layers of tassels and fabric. Use your fabric glue and sequins to give the dragon scales and make him shine. Kids can wear the masks around the house or walk in a neighborhood Chinese New Year parade, if your city has one.

Make sure to bring a few firecrackers for popping off at the parade!

Culinary Traditions

Get the whole family together and celebrate the Chinese New Year with a feast made for an army. Foods traditionally served for this festival all have meanings associated with peace, prosperity, and longevity. You can try some new Chinese foods, or come up with your own variations based on the meanings of different foods.

Dumplings, for example, are meant to look like purses stuffed with gold coins, a symbol for great prosperity. Serving “uncut noodles,” hand-made and left as long as possible, is also a sign of prosperity. Make your own ultra-long noodles and have your kids slurp them all the way up. Slurping noodles, in Asian culture, is a polite way to show that you like the food.

Finally, there’s the most famous and traditional New Year food: mandarin oranges, better known as Cuties to you – and kids love them! Except today, in your New Year’s vernacular, you’ll refer to them as “gik,” a homophone for “luck” or “fortune.”

Want a real Chinese culinary adventure? Order the Yusheng at your local Chinese restaurant. It may be raw fish salad, yes. But after eating it on the seventh day of the new year, you’re sure to have good luck for the next 358 days.

Saving the Best for Last

Finally, the last sign of prosperity is perhaps the most obvious. Adults and married couples usually give red packets or envelopes to singles and children. Inside is cold, hard cash. Give your kids the lucky number 8 (even numbers are good luck). With an $8 red packet, they might be lucky enough to buy their own lunch tomorrow.

What are you most excited about this upcoming Chinese New Year? Share your plans with us!

Tags : celebrations   holidays from around the world   global citizen   chinese holidays   asian holidays   

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