This year the Chinese New Year falls on January 26 — but that's just when the party begins. Over two weeks of feasting and fun follow with colorful parades, visits to family and friends, fireworks, and all kinds of ancient (and not-so-ancient) rituals to help bring in the new year. In China, many people take weeks of vacation from work to prepare for New Year's festivities.
The Chinese New Year is based on a mixture of the lunar and solar calendars, so it falls on a different date each year — but always on the second moon after the winter solstice. It's a perfect time for a fresh start so houses are cleaned from top to bottom, debts are settled, lots of delicious food is eaten, and everyone tries to begin the year on a positive note.
A great excuse for a party, Chinese New Year has all kinds of stuff for kids built right in. Follow some of the suggestions below to create your own Chinese New Year's celebration and you'll be sure to ring in a healthy and prosperous new year for everyone!
1. Cleaning up: Everyone can help clean the house for the new year, but just don't sweep on New Year's day. Chinese tradition holds that you could be sweeping your luck right out the door! Start with the kitchen if you'll be making dumplings...
2. Kung hei fat choy!: Start off by greeting guests with Happy New Year in Cantonese — and ask them to greet new arrivals with a hearty round of, "Kung hei fat choy" themselves.
3. Making dumplings: During the new year's festivities, families and friends gather together to make big trays of steaming hot dumplings since dumplings are said to represent wealth. Try making Vegetarian Pot Stickers or let kids get creative with their own fillings. You won't know if macaroni and cheese or chocolate chips taste great in a dumpling if you don't try! Prepare fillings in advance and let kids make the dumplings themselves.
4. Year of the Ox: Legend says that Bhudda named the Chinese years after 12 animals, and people born in each animal's year would take on some of that creature's characteristics. The year 2009, or 4707 in the Chinese calendar, is the Year of the Ox. People born in the Year of the Ox are said to be patient and eccentric, and often inspire confidence in others. Provide information about the meanings of each of the animals, so that guests can see if their own personalities fit the descriptions of the animal on their birth year.
5. Writing red paper scrolls: In traditional Chinese homes, positive words such as "health" or "prosperity" are written on red paper scrolls and scattered throughout the home. Provide paper and crayons or markers so everyone can create paper scrolls with their own wishes for the new year to take home.
6. Fortune cookies: Because everyone wants to know what the new year will entail, why not have everyone write fortunes out and make fortune cookies together? They're easy to make and these are a lot tastier than what you find in most restaurants.
Recipe to Try:
7. Lai see: Little red envelopes filled with money called lai see are traditionally given to children during this time. If you're feeling generous, lai see with crisp one dollar bills in them would be a great party favor.