Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Chinese New Year – Sing, Dance, Create!

Gung Hay Fat Choy from Macaroni Soup with Miss Carole! 
    Soon it will be Chinese New Year (on the Lunar Calendar), and I’d like to share some of the fun  things I do with my students to teach them about this very colorful and interesting celebration.  With books, songs, art projects and simple food it is easy for young children to appreciate and enjoy a holiday from another culture.
    Over the past 5 years I have assembled music, art and literature that are developmentally appropriate for 3 – 6 year olds.

    2013 is the Year of the Snake, and the New Year’s Celebration begins on February 10.  You have time to prepare!  Typically the “party” lasts 15 days. 

    To prepare for the New Year, everyone must clean.  Sweep out the old year, then don’t clean for the first few days of the New Year or you risk sweeping away your good luck!  (Ok – the cracker crumbs under the snack table gotta go, but you get the idea!)
    Now decorate!  Make papercuts of red paper to hang on doors and windows.  Create a dragon head to lead your Dragon Dance line around the room.  Make a lantern - see Maggy's blog from Dec 27.
    Make a gift for the Kitchen God so that it reports in your favor when it returns to Heaven!  Sticky Cake (not STINKY CAKE!  But you could use my song - "We're going to make a sticky cake!  Put some honey in the sticky cake!") Anything made with honey is especially good!  Even a drizzle of honey on a cracker or bread will work.
    Create a money packet or leisee from red paper decorated with gold writing or stickers.  During Chinese New Year, children receive “lucky money”…even a penny will do!
    Tell the ancient legend of Nian (pronounced n-YEN.)  This ferocious sea creature once tormented villagers by swallowing several of them in his large mouth in a single bite once each year.  One year, an old man appeared in the village on the Eve of the New Year.  He said he would chase Nian away.  The villagers fled anyway, leaving the old man alone to face the beast.  When Nian emerged to wreak his usual havoc, the old man lit firecrackers, lit bright lanterns and waved red banners.  The beast was frightened and ran away, never to be seen again!  When the villagers returned, the old man was gone, but they found the debris from the firecrackers and the lanterns and banners hanging on their houses.  From then on these three items were used to celebrate the New Year!
    When I told this story this week, the children were wide-eyed.  I emphasized that it happened before they were born (before their parents and grandparents, for that matter) and Nian was never seen ANYWHERE ever again! 

BOOKS:  For preschool and Kinders, I like DRAGON DANCE by Joan Holub.  The lift-the-flaps format is great for reading to children.
    For younger 3’s and Toddlers, try LANTERNS AND FIRECRACKERS by Jonny Zucker and J.B.Cohen.
    I got both books on

MUSIC:  Nancy Stewart has written and recorded a magical song, “Gung Hay Fat Choy”.  She offers it on her website as a FREE DOWNLOAD – yes, folks, FREE!!!  There is also sheet music there, too!
    With my students, we do this song with scarves.  We weave one end of the scarf in and out our fingers, letting the rest of the scarf fall toward the ground.  It could also be done with crepe paper streamers.  Here’s our dance:
Gung hay fat choy, gung hay fat choy   (clap on gung, move one hand to side parallel with head, repeat on other side)
Sing Happy New Year, Gung Hay Fat Choy!  (repeat actions above)
    During the verses, act out the words:
Verse 1:  we bow to each other and say “Ni hao” (hello) to each other.
Verse 2:  use your scarf as a broom, sweeping.
Verse 3:  hold up both hands in front, palms upward, tip one up, then the other.
Verse 4:  Put hands to sides of head to make dragon horns, dance around the room!
BOW with palms together at the end of the song.
    It’s so beautiful!  Thank you, Nancy for such a gift!

ART:  Copy a dragon’s head onto heavyweight paper or cardboard.  Children may color or paint the dragon.  Cut out the dragon head.  Staple a strip of the paper to the back of the dragon so that the children can slip their flat hand in to hold it up.  We use the scarf in one hand, dragon in the other with my 4 - 6 year olds.  The pattern in the link above is excellent.

·        Download pictures of the different animals that are celebrated each year, identify each one with your kids.  What year were most of them born under? Who’s a Rat?  An Ox?  A Dog?
·        Make long spaghetti-like noodles to eat.  Long noodles for a long life!
·        Cut spiral snakes and hang them from the ceiling!  It’s the Year of the Snake, remember?
·        Play “Where’s the Snake”- hide a rubber snake in the room and let everyone hunt for it!  OR, hide a few gummy snakes, each in a Ziploc snackbag – and you can eat what you catch!  Sharing is encouraged, so have a small knife ready.

Today, Chinese New Year is about family reunions and wishing everyone good fortune in the coming year.  Have the children make New Year’s card for their family, wishing them luck and prosperity!

I also found great info here.

    To all of the followers of the PreK and K Sharing Blog – I wish YOU a prosperous and “lucky” 2013!

Yours for a Happy Song!
“Miss Carole” Stephens


  1. Thanks so much for all the great resources, including Nancy Stewart's wonderful song! These are all fabulous for Chinese New Year! I pinned your post to my Kids' Chinese New Year Board at

  2. Thanks, Deb! And thanks for passing it on - Chinese New Year has become one of my favorite Lesson Plans!

  3. Thanks for the fun and informative info! I loved the images of the children and really love how much you use the Arts as the connection to so much joy and learning....cheers!

  4. Thanks, Enrique. As an Early Childhood Music Specialist, I spend most of my time encouraging classroom teachers to include music daily with their students. Not only is it important, but for some kids, it's their pathway into learning! But then again - I'm preaching to the choir here, right?

  5. Celebrating Chinese new year sounds like fun and so festive. I really like this occasion in the year. My warm chinese new year greetings to all. Kung Hei Fat choi!

  6. Hi Missy! I'm glad you enjoy Chinese New Year. I've never seen the spelling you used for the "Happy New Year" greeting - is it another dialect, or another phonetic spelling? Just curious!


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