Today marks the beginning of the Lunar New Year! And, just as in the year I was born (let’s pretend it was 1992), this is again the year of the MONKEY.
We’re celebrating with a few fun activities in our home, and a reading of The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac, a lively story that explains just how the twelve different animals were selected by the Jade Emperor to rule each year. You can download the lunar calendar below (from the end pages of The Great Race) to figure out what year your kids were born in!
Another of our very favorite books about China is We’re Riding on a Caravan: An Adventure on the Silk Road. Follow a Chinese family as they journey for an entire year from the ancient city of Xi’an, trading their goods and enduring frigid desert winds, until they reach Kashgar’s legendary Sunday market. The lyrical prose, stunning illustrations, and thorough end pages make this one of my Barefoot favorites!
Chinese New Year Activities for Kids
Paper Lanterns: The Festival of Lanterns is celebrated on the fifteenth and final day of Chinese New Year. I previously highlighted the beautiful children’s book, Lin Yi’s Lantern, which tells the story of the moon festival while also touching on themes of responsibility and selfless care for one’s family. The book’s end pages include instructions for making paper lanterns, but if you don’t have a copy this is also a great tutorial: Chinese Paper Lanterns in 4 Easy Steps.
Dragon Puppets: This is a fun and easy tutorial for making Chinese dragon puppets! It includes a free printable, so all you’ll need is some paper, crayons, glue and popsicle sticks. Click here to check it out.
Chinese Red Envelopes: During Chinese New Year, children are traditionally given red envelopes containing money. This is a simple tutorial (again, with a free printable) for making envelopes. We’ll fill ours with special notes for the girls, because at this point in their life that is just as valuable (if not more valuable) than a dollar : ) You can find the tutorial here: Chinese Red Envelope.
Baked Chinese New Year Cake: I’m not too familiar with Chinese cooking, so I searched for a relatively simply dessert recipe we could make with equipment and ingredients we already had in stock. This Baked Chinese New Year Cake fit the bill! (I ground into flour the glutinous rice I always have on hand for Thai mangoes and stick rice…though it would certainly be easier to purchase sweet rice flour if possible.)
Let’s be honest, we mostly baked this cake because we had ZERO on our agenda today, and with two little ones at home and rain in the forecast, that can make for a looooong day. This allowed us a good 15 minutes without whining…and the girls LOVED it : )
There are loads of ideas and tutorials online with ideas for celebrating Chinese New Year. Feel free to share your own below, and have fun celebrating!
Barefoot Books with Stories from China
The Barefoot Book of Animal Tales (includes a story from China)
Get one of these books free when you buy three others with the code NEWYEAR!