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Chinese New Year: Lesson Ideas

Have you and your students already forgotten your New Year's resolutions? Lost the spirit of anticipation that the New Year brings? This week, Education World brings you another chance for a new beginning. It's time to celebrate...the Year of the Monkey!

Firecracker GIF According to the Chinese lunar calendar, the Year of the Monkey begins on Monday, February 8. The Web sites below will help you introduce your students to the legends, superstitions, and traditions surrounding the 15-day New Year celebration -- enhancing their understanding of other cultures and ancient beliefs.


Begin your exploration of the New Year at Chinese New Year by Haiwang Yuan. Though it lacks colorful graphics or lists of links, this site provides a basic, clearly written, insider's introduction to New Year celebrations and superstitions. Sections include:

  • The Origin of Chinese New Year recounts a legend central to the New Year rituals and traditions, and discusses the possible origin of the term Guo Nian -- Celebrate the New Year.
  • Traditions of Chinese New Year describes some of the highlights of a traditional New Year's celebration. For example, many Chinese paint their doors and windowpanes red and decorate doors and windows with paper-cuts and couplets to celebrate the holiday.
  • When Is the Chinese New Year? explains the Chinese lunar calendar's relationship to the Gregorian calendar, the lunar-solar calendar, and a calendar of 24 solar terms related to farming. The last is perhaps the most fascinating, with such functionally descriptive names as "Waking of Insects," "Grain Rain," and "White Dew." Before they explore the site, read your students the entire list and ask them to guess when each period occurs.

Students also might be interested in learning about the symbolism of the animals in the Zodiac.

For information on more of the traditional beliefs that influence Chinese New Year celebrations, visit Chinese New Year, from the University of Victoria (British Columbia) Faculty of Education. Though it doesn't include the ancient legends, this site does provide easy-to-read information about the significance of many holiday traditions. Sections include:

  • The 15-Day Celebration of Chinese New Year provides explanations of the significance of each day of the New Year celebration and talks about some special ways in which each day is celebrated. For example, children may be interested to note that on the second day, known as the birthday of all dogs, the Chinese are extra kind to dogs and feed them well.
  • Traditional New Year Foods discusses foods traditionally eaten during the New Year celebrations and explains the symbolism of many of those foods. Children will be fascinated to discover that chickens are traditionally served with heads and feet still attached -- to signify completeness. Noodles are uncut to represent a long life.
  • Chinese New Year Decorations explains the significance of the fruit, flowers, and candy often used to decorate Chinese homes during the holiday period. Bowls of oranges and tangerines, for example, symbolize a year of abundance and happiness.
  • Taboos and Superstitions of Chinese New Year discusses a number of ancient superstitions and explains how they influence modern celebrations. You'll learn why houses aren't cleaned and children aren't reprimanded on the first day of the Chinese New Year.



Once students understand how and why the Chinese New Year is celebrated, they might want to become personally involved in the celebrations by engaging in classroom activities related to the event. With older students, you might begin by using a lesson plan on the Chinese lunar calendar.

Younger students will enjoy making a Chinese New Year Dragon Mask. They can wear it to play Chase the Dragon's Tail, a traditional Chinese children's game.


Article by Linda Starr
Education World®
Copyright © Education World


Related resource

Happy New Year! Calendar Lesson Ideas


Updated 12/08/2014