Children's Activities

Celebrating Lunar New Year as a Family

Lunar New Year is the biggest holiday of the year in many Asian countries. It’s a fifteen-day celebration filled with fireworks, special food dishes, and parades. Many Asian-American families commemorate the holiday with their own customs and traditions. Here’s a few ways to celebrate and teach little ones about Lunar New Year at home!

What is Lunar New Year?

Lunar New Year is a celebration of the arrival of spring and the beginning of a new year on the lunisolar calendar, which was created for agricultural purposes. While many Americans refer to the holiday as “Chinese New Year,” it’s celebrated in other Asian countries as well, including South Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Singapore. Customs and traditions vary by country, and even by region but it is a special time to welcome the new year, honor ancestors, spend time with family and enjoy customary foods.

Many people associate Lunar New Year with the zodiac. That’s because the Chinese zodiac runs through a 12-year cycle, with each year represented by a different animal: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. 2023 is the year of the Rabbit!

Lunar New Year Traditions

Ringing in the new year is usually associated with several myths and customs. Traditionally it also its a time for families to thoroughly clean their house, in order to sweep away any ill-fortune and to make way for incoming good luck. Another custom is decorating your house in vibrant colors, usually red and gold, which symbolizes good fortune, light firecrackers and giving money in red paper envelopes and eat dumplings. Other traditions include:

  • Wearing Red
  • Host a Feast or “Reunion Dinner”
  • Set off Firecrackers
  • Attend a Lion Dance

Easy Ways to Celebrate!

Story time is always a fun way to reflect on a holiday. There are so many wonderful children’s books about Lunar New Year as it pertains to individual cultures. Our Lunar New Year by Yobe Qiu teaches and engages children on five different Lunar New Year traditions. Chinese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, and Indian storylines each tell of favorite annual rituals from these cultures.

Give your early learners background knowledge on Lunar New Year with this free video from Scholastic News. Your students will learn about this special holiday’s traditions from getting a haircut to celebrations on the streets!

One of the most popular Chinese traditions is the gift of a red envelopes (hóng bāo in Mandarin and lai see in Cantonese) from parents and relatives. These decorative envelopes are usually filled with cash as symbol of good luck and prosperity. Encourage your children to spend it on something that brings them joy!

The most important thing about the holiday is celebrating alongside your family. Spend quality time with your littles, loved ones and friends this holiday season!