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New Year Celebrations Around the World


  • Science
    --Physical Science
    ----Earth Science
  • Social Studies


Grades 2-up

News Content

People around the world celebrate the start of a new year in different ways.

Anticipation Guide

Begin this lesson by asking students to share how they and their families celebrated the New Year. Then, before reading, ask students to agree or disagree with each of the statements below.

  • All around the world people celebrate the new year on January 1.
  • New Year's Day always happens in winter.
  • Chinese New Year is celebrated on January 1.
  • Grapes and black-eyed peas are symbols of good luck.

News Words

Introduce these words from the News Word box on the students' printable page:

  • resolution -- a promise to yourself that you will try very hard to do something, for example, a New Year's resolution
  • lunar calendar -- a calendar based on the cycles of the moon. Explain to students that the moon has a cycle that lasts approximately 29-1/2 days.

The moon progresses through its four phases -- new moon, first quarter, full moon, and last quarter -- during each cycle. In places where people follow the lunar calendar, a new month starts with each new moon; so, a new month starts every 29 or 30 days. With the calendar most students know (the Gregorian calendar), a new month starts every 30 or 31 days, with the exception of February. With the Gregorian calendar, the new year always starts on January 1; with the lunar calendar -- because its months start on the day of the new moon -- the start of the new year changes from year to year.

Read the News

Click for a printable version of this week's news story New Year Celebrations Around the World.

Reading the News

You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:

* Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.

* Students might first read the news story to themselves; then call on individual students to read the news aloud for the class.

* Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write a note in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.

More Facts to Share

You might share these additional New Year traditions with students after they have read this week's news story.

  • Some cultures used to celebrate the start of the new year on March 21, which was the first day of spring.
  • In Denmark, people save old dishes and throw them at the doors of their friends' homes on New Year's Eve. If you find many broken dishes by your door on New Year's Day, it is a sign that you have many friends.
  • In Korea, everyone dresses in new clothes on New Year's Day to symbolize a new beginning.
  • In Germany, people leave some food on their plate at the New Year's Eve meal as a way of ensuring a well-stocked kitchen in the year ahead.
  • In Vietnam, people celebrate the new year, which they call Tet, after their crop is completely harvested. On the day before the new year people plant a tree and hang bells and red streamers from it. Those decorations are not to make the tree look pretty; they are to protect the family from evil spirits.

Comprehension Check

Revisit the Anticipation Guide at the top of this lesson; ask students to respond again to the statements in it.

  • All around the world people celebrate the new year on January 1. (Many cultures celebrate the new year on January 1, but others celebrate at different times.)
  • New Year's Day always happens in winter. (It depends on where you are in the world. While people in the Northern Hemisphere are experiencing winter on January 1, people below the equator are celebrating New Year's Day in summertime.)
  • Chinese New Year is celebrated on January 1. (Today, people in China follow the same calendar as people in the United States do, but they still celebrate their traditional Chinese New Year sometime between January 21 and February 20. Other countries celebrate the new year at times other than January 1.)
  • Grapes and black-eyed peas are symbols of good luck. (Yes, they are in some cultures.)

You might follow-up that activity by asking some of these questions:

Recalling Detail

  • How do people in Australia celebrate the new year? (they often celebrate with picnics on the beach or events such as rodeos and surf carnivals)
  • Some people in the southern United States eat black-eyed peas and turnip greens on New Year's Day. What do those foods represent or symbolize? (The peas represent coins and the greens represent paper money/dollar bills.)
  • In China, the dragon is a popular symbol of the new year. What does it represent? (The dragon is a symbol of wealth and a long life.)
  • Why do some Chinese people celebrate the new year by setting off firecrackers? (They believe the loud noises will scare away evil spirits.)

Think About the News
Discuss the Think About the News questions that appear on the students' news page.

Follow-Up Activities

Geography and cultures. Have students use library books and Internet sources such as's New Year's Traditions to learn about when and how people in different cultures celebrate the start of a new year. You might pass index cards to students and assign each student a country on the list. Ask students to write on their index cards a couple facts they learn about when and how a traditional new year is celebrated in their assigned country. Post students' index cards around a world map on a bulletin board and have each student string a piece of yarn from her/his card to the location on the map of the country/culture s/he researched. An alternative to a bulletin board display: have each student write a page for a class book about "New Year's Celebrations Around the World."

Science. Be sure students understand why on January 1 people in the Southern Hemisphere are experiencing summer while it is winter in the Northern Hemisphere. The How Things Work Web site offers a simple explanation.

Foreign Language. Set up an activity in your classroom computer center in which students match the names of ten countries to the expression used in each country to mean "Happy New Year." Have students use's "How 'Happy New Year' Is Said Around the World" to complete the matching activity.


Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News questions on the news story page or in the Comprehension Check section.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

National Standards

National Standards

NL-ENG.K-12.1 Reading for Perspective
NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
NL-ENG.K-12.9 Multicultural Understanding

LANGUAGE ARTS: Foreign Language
NL-FL.K-12.2 Cultures
NL-FL.K-12.4 Comparisons

NS.K-4.2 Physical Science
NS.K-4.4 Earth and Space Science
GRADES 5 - 8
NS.5-8.2 Physical Science
NS.5-8.4 Earth and Space Science
GRADES 9 - 12
NS.9-12.2 Physical Science
NS.9-12.4 Earth and Space Science

NSS-G.K-12.1 The World in Spatial Terms

See recent news stories in Education World's News Story of the Week Archive.

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World®
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