Saturday, January 18, 2014

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Gung Hay Fat Choy!
Singing Time: Songs, Stories, Books, & Apps to Celebrate the
Chinese New Year

Hello everyone! Ms. Brigid here, from Merit School of Music  in Chicago, IL. Happy Year of the Horse! This week we’re exploring resources for the Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival. Over a billion people observe Chinese New Year – in fact during the two weeks it’s celebrated, from the new moon to the full moon, the largest human migration on earth takes place as family members travel to be with each other for New Years Eve on January 30th
 ©2014 Brigid Finucane. Irresistible Good Luck Candy!
I have been celebrating the lunar festival for over a decade in my classrooms, each year adding new layers. My observance stems from the good fortune of being placed at the Chinese American Service League (CASL) as the Pre-K music teacher through Bridges, Merit’s outreach program.  CASL was my first Merit teaching site, and one I’ll forever cherish. To have a window into such a rich culture and community is a gift.

Chinese New Year, as with other holidays celebrated this time of year, centers on Family, Feasts, Light (fireworks, lanterns), and Community (parties, parades, visiting). Specific songs are associated with the holiday and similar preparations take place – cleaning and decorating the home, shopping, preparing symbolic food, wearing special (new) clothes, and making arrangements to host or travel. My students, families and teachers explore these similarities in class, and talk about the differences - like Lion Dancers and Dancing Dragons! Happy memories of holiday gatherings are still fresh in the kiddos’ minds, and connections are easily made!

©2014 Brigid Finucane. Oranges and flowers and lanterns, oh my!

My favorite Chinese New Song is Gung Hay Fat Choy by Nancy Stewart, a Children’s Music Network (CMN) member living in Seattle. Sheet music, an mp3 and an instrumental version are available.

Nancy Stewart's Song of the Month, January 2003
In a few perfectly crafted verses the song chronicles the key features – starting with preparations and ending with dragons dancing and a nod to the Lantern Festival, which concludes the holiday on the 15th day (full moon). The song even notes how the starting date is determined: 

    “The new moon tells us exactly when
     We celebrate with family and friends.”

The hauntingly beautiful chorus is one that all, even the youngest, can sing:

Gung Hay Fat Choy!  Gung Hay Fat Choy!
Sing Happy New Year!  Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Feng Yang Hua Gu or Flower Drum Song is a popular traditional song associated with the New Year. The end of the song mimics the sound of the drum.  There are many YouTube versions, ranging from dance troupes to instrumental ensembles.

Video by Red Taurus

Storynory is an online storytelling site. Stories can be listened to or read.
Chinese Years of the Animals. “In Chinese astrology, each year is named after an animal, and if you are born in that year, you take some of that animal’s characteristics. This is the story of how each year go its name,…”

Chinese Year of the Horse – The Horse That Ran Away. This story  "...shows that you can never tell if an event will turn out to be good or bad luck in the long term. The idea is part of Taoist philosophy, which teaches that you must live  in harmony with nature and what it brings you, good or bad."

Fun With Mandarin’s vibrantly illustrated Story of Nian is suitable for younger viewers, and tells the origination of New Year traditions. YouTube.

In the not so distant past, information was harder to unearth about Chinese New Year. The internet has changed that, and numerous books written specifically for young children have added greatly to understanding the holiday. First, the internet!

-Chinese New Year Traditions, created by Chinese Childbook, is a short family-friendly video created for Year of the Tiger (2010).

-Chinese New Year  –  the Brooklyn Children’s Museum’s remarkable repository of information about Chinese New Year includes worksheets and visuals of objects associated with the holiday, ranging from ornaments to kumquat trees to Fu symbols!

Now the books!
©2014 Brigid Finucane.
Music Masters I kiddos - who aren't afraid of dragons!

-The Dancing Dragon perfectly captures the excitement of the New Year parade. The book’s unique accordion format unfolds to reveal the dragon!

-This Next New Year is a book about the promise of the new year and a Chinese-Korean boy who has big dreams. It captures the heart completely.  Unfortunately, it is hard to purchase – but available in many libraries.

-Rabbit’s Gift, based on a Chinese fable, is a gentle tale of a turnip (!) and the power of sharing and caring for others. Margaret Hooton from the Children’s Music Network (CMN), introduced the book to me, and we both wrote verses to go with the story. 
Margaret:                                                            Brigid:          
Turnips are so sweet,                           La, la, la, la, la. 
And they’re good to eat!                      La, la, la, la, la.
On a cold winter day                            Sharing with friends
Turnips are a treat!                              Is a gift from the heart.

Listen below, in the Chinese New Year Card video greeting! We've "piggybacked" our lyrics onto the first four measures of Feng Yang Hua Gu or Flower Drum Song!

The apps below are all free versions – which mean there are ads, alas. Even so, they’re worthwhile, and if you’re so inclined, an “In-App” purchase will take care of the annoyances!

1. Chinese New Year Video Greeting Cards. Send  video greetings with this app. Two card styles are available, with options to buy more music and backgrounds. Ads are intrusive!

2. Learn about and listen to traditional Chinese Instruments, created by The United Academy of Music in Wanchi Hong Kong – a truly impressive  and generous app. Wish List: A pronunciation guide and more clearly written song and instrument information.

©2014 Brigid Finucane. Year of the Metal Horse.

3. No New Year festival is complete without fireworks!  Make your own fireworks with Fireworks Arcade.

If you’re wondering about the installation photos, they were inspired by Liz Hannan from CMN who contributed a hilarious story to the CMN list-serve about toy dinosaurs in the home environment. I thought, “Why not substitute a toy horse for the dinosaurs?”  Join me, and get creative in your classroom over the 15 days of the festival! Your kiddos will love it. Please share pictures! 
©2014 Brigid Finucane. Lucky horses!

Thank you so much for joining me! It’s wonderful to be part of this new community.
 Please feel free to contact me with any questions you have. I’m here to help!
I hope you’ll visit me next month, when I’ll be sharing more apps and musical ideas.
I am continually inspired by the Children’s Music Network (CMN) community. an international group of socially conscious musicians, educators, librarians, families, songwriters and good people, who “celebrate the positive power of music in the lives of children by sharing songs, exchanging ideas, and creating community.” Please visit CMN, and find a gathering in your region.

©2014 Brigid Finucane  * 847-213-0713 *

Blog History



  1. Wow. This is fabulously well-researched and executed work. Thanks, Ms. Brigid. Can't wait to read your next post. YOU are a gift to this website.

  2. Thank you for reading - then writing! Its easy to get swept up in the web's treasure trove - one click leads to another and then 10 more, then on and on. If I hadn't had a deadline, I'd still be looking at YouTubes of the Flower Drum Song! Brigid

  3. Wonderful summary Brigid!. thank you so much for having put this resource all in one easy blog.

  4. You're welcome, Joanie. I hope there is something here you can use in your classes.
    Rabbit's Gift might be a great addition to your amazing repertoire of Books to Sing!


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