Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Chinese New Year Facts


Last week, I went to my 7 year old's classroom to tell them about Chinese New Year. Since I am 1/2 Asian (Vietnamese) and 1/2 of my family celebrates this holiday, I thought it was time that I brushed up on the details and shared them with my kids. So I gathered some red envelopes and pretend money, along with untraditional Swedish Fish, and went to the classroom.

Here are some general facts I shared, many of which were new to me:

  • Chinese New Year starts on a different day every year because it is based on the Lunar calendar.

  • The Vietnamese celebrates Tet, similar to Chinese New Year.

  • This year it started on January 26. Next year, it will begin February 14.

  • Traditionally, the Chinese New Year lasts 1 month. The first 5 days are the most important part of the celebration. It signifies the coming year. Families don’t cook and shops are closed. All of the festivities are prepared ahead so that no work is done in the initial days.

  • The first day is reserved for the closest of family, the next is for additional family and close friends. The weeks following are for celebrating with neighbors and community.

Legend has it that a beast would come to China the night before the New Year began and prey upon the people. The beast had a very big mouth and would swallow many people with one bite. It feared the color red so the people began putting up red paper lanterns and lighting firecrackers to scare the beast away.

  • The Chinese decorate their homes with red lanterns to ward off evil.

  • The Vietnamese families plant a new years tree (or bamboo pole) in front of their homes. The leaves are removed and it is wrapped or decorated with good luck red paper.

  • They wear new clothes or bright colors like red for good luck.

  • Red envelopes with crisp new money are given to the younger and single family members to signify prosperity in the year to come.

  • The month long celebration culminates with a red lantern festival.

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