Chinese New Year is coming up, celebrated on the first and 15th days of the new moon (Spring and Lantern Festivals). Families get together to share special foods (especially lucky dumplings and sticky rice cakes), wear new clothes, decorate their house with symbols of luck and prosperity. In many cities around the world, there are parades and performances with lion and dragon dancers, and lots of firecrackers.
The origin of Chinese New Year is a legend of a monster called Xi, and Nian, a brave little boy. On the last day of every year, the monster would come down to earth and run around smashing things. Little Nian confronted Xi, and cleverly gave him some sticky rice cakes. Xi’s mouth stuck together so he couldn’t hurt people. Then Nian lit firecrackers, the monster was so scared by the loud noises, he ran away. The first day of the New Year is xin nian, in memory of Nian, and the last day is getting rid of Xi, chu xi.
The Lantern Festival on the 15th day is celebrated with red lanterns and more firecrackers. In the mists of time, the Jade Emperor in Heaven was angry with people and tried to destroy the earth with fire. Instead the Jade Emperor’s daughter came to earth, and told everyone to light red lanterns and set off lots of exploding firecrackers. The Jade Emperor was fooled into thinking earth had burned up, so everyone was saved.
Here’s our favorite books to read about Chinese New Year:
- Celebrate Chinese New Year by Carolyn Otto. Travel around the world to see celebrations of Chinese New Year – family feasts in China and fireworks in Taiwan on New Year’s Eve, parade of lantern lights in Japan, ice sculpture in Mongolia, parades and dragon dances in London, Vancouver and San Francisco. Gung Hay Fat Choy! (Picture book)
- Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin. Families greet the Chinese New Year – sweep away the old year, cook special dishes, get a haircut, put on a new dress, enjoy a New Year’s feast, and carry lanterns to light the way. (Picture book)
- Long-Long’s New Year by Catherine Gower, He Zhihong – In a Chinese village, Long-Long has come to town with his grandpa to sell their cabbages and earn money for the New Year. Everything is a new adventure for Long-Long – bustle of the market, buying lucky words on red paper and presents for family, and returning home to happiness and good luck. Sparkling illustrations of traditional Chinese life. (Picture book)
- The New Year Dragon Dilemma by Ron Roy. In this Chinese New Year mystery adventure, a priceless ruby is stolen from Miss Chinatown during the San Francisco New Year’s parade. Can three kids find the real thief, and what’s the secret of Gum Lung? (Easy reader)
- My First Chinese New Year by Karen Katz – Delightful introduction to Chinese New Year for younger kids. A little girl sweeps away bad luck, gets a new red dress, helps make special foods with Grandma, shares a feast with all the relatives, and watches the New Year parade. Adorable illustrations. (Picture book)
- Dragon Dance by Joan Holub and Benrei Huang. Charming “lift the flap” book about Chinese New Year. Little kids can lift the flap to see house decorations “Good Luck and Good Fortune,” a feast with very long noodles, lion dancers, and last of all, the dragon. (Picture book)
- Chinese New Year Activity Book by Karl Jones, Steve Simpson – Learn about Chinese New Year traditions, fold together four different lion dancers, color lion and dragon mask, make confetti fireworks and pinwheels, recipe for steamed dumplings, stickers with zodiac animals, lions, food, lanterns and stars. (Activity book)