The Chinese New Year begins on January 31, 2014. This is the “Year of the Horse.” People born under that sign are said to be “hardworking, admirable and ambitious.” The Chinese Lunar Calendar names each of the 12 years after an animal. Legend has it that Buddha summoned all of the animals to come to see him before his death. Only 12 came to pay their respects. As a reward, Buddha named a year after each animal in the order that they arrived: the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. The Chinese believe the animal ruling the year in which a person is born has significant influence on personality saying, “This is the animal that hides in your heart.”Many Chinese Americans celebrate the Chinese New Year and practice the many traditions their families grew up with. If they are born under the sign for the year, then they will wear red all year for good luck. In the days before the New Year, families clean their homes “in order to sweep away any ill-fortune and to make way for good incoming luck.” They also buy new clothes and shoes which symbolize a new beginning for the New Year. Houses are decorated with decorative red scrolls with themes of “good fortune” or “happiness.” It is also a tradition to visit family members on New Years. Many families may play Mahjong or cards and stay up all night counting down until the New Year arrives. They make dumplings and eat them around midnight to welcome in the New Year. Some families even put coins in the dumplings and the lucky person to find the coin will be given money to start off the New Year.
One tradition that seems to be shared by all is the handing out of red decorated envelopes known as “hongbao” in Mandarin, “laisee” in Cantonese, and “angpow” in Hokkien. On the morning of New Year’s Day, married people begin the distribution of the envelopes filled with crisp new money to children and single members of the family, and in some cultures, it is extended to friends and neighbors. The amount of money contained in the envelope usually ends with an even number as according to Chinese custom, odd numbered money gifts are traditionally associated with funerals. The new money symbolizes good fortune. The recipient puts his or her hands together and shakes them while wishing you “Kung Hei Fat Choi” (if you are from Southern Chinese and Cantonese-speaking communities) roughly translated “Wishing you a happy and prosperous New Year,” or “Gonghe xinxi” (if you are from Mandarin speaking communities) meaning “Respectful congratulations and blessings for the New Year” in return as he or she accepts the envelope with both hands.
Westerners wanting to bring luck into their homes can follow tradition by remembering on the first day of Chinese New Year not to clean house, cut your hair or take a shower because you will wash away any good luck that might befall you. It promises to be the luckiest day of the year!
Here are some videos you may want to share with your students:
Chinese New Year Story “Nian”
Have students read the English subtitles (they can listen to Chinese)
Have students answer these questions as they listen to the story:
a. Why did the Chinese people use a lot of bright lights and red colors?
b. Why did the people make loud noises and use fireworks during the New Year?
Students sing along to the video and listen to the Chinese with the English subtitles
Students can sing the repetitive melody -
“Gong Xi, Gong Xi, Gong Xi Ni,” (gongo-si, gong-si, gong-si nee)-->
Take the Chinese New Year Quiz:
How did you do?
Also, here are some great books!
Happy New Year! The Year of the Horse!