Chinese New Year, also referred to as Lunar New Year, is the most important holiday on the Chinese calendar. The holiday is a two week festival filled with reunions among family and friends, an abundance of delicious food and wishes for a new year filled with prosperity, joy and good fortune.
Mark Your Calendars
Chinese New Year 2018 is February 16, 2018. The celebration lasts from the night before the first day of the lunar year until the Lantern Festival 15 days later.
Here is a collection of easy family activities, recipes and crafts with step-by-step directions to help your family welcome a happy and lucky new year.
Much like the celebration of the New Year in the Western world, Chinese New Year is all about the hopeful spirit of renewal. The holiday’s traditions, symbols and rituals are all meant to wipe the slate clean and prepare for prosperity, good luck and happiness in the new year. Simply put, every Chinese New Year is a new beginning. Today, Chinese New Year is celebrated with fireworks and family dinners by more than a billion people around the world.
History & Folklore
Chinese New Year has been celebrated for more than four thousand years and originated to mark the end of winter and the beginning of spring. The holiday is one of the three big festivals designated for the living — the others are the Dragon Boat Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival. Read More »
Decoding the 15 Days of Chinese New Year
You’re no doubt familiar with the 12 days of Christmas, resplendent with drummers drumming, pipers piping and a partridge in a pear tree. Less well publicized, however, are the 15 days of Chinese New Year, the festival season that stretches from the new moon on New Year’s Day until the full moon on the Lantern Festival. Read More »
The Meaning of Chinese Zodiac Symbols
Each new Chinese year is named for one of 12 animal symbols from the Chinese zodiac, which then rotate on a 12 year cycle. It’s believed that the animals were selected during the Han Dynasty, with their symbolic meanings based on the animals’ observable living habits. Read More »
The Meaning of Dragon and Lion Dancing
Though you may see dragon and lion dances performed at other celebrations throughout the year, it’s most exciting when they appear bobbing and weaving their way through Chinese New Year parades across the United States. Here’s what to watch for and how to tell them apart. Read More »
Celebrating Chinese New Year can feel like a marathon. The holiday involves at least a week of preparation prior to New Year’s Day, followed by two weeks of feasts, family visits and merrymaking. Each step of the way is an opportunity to create family memories, teach elements of Chinese culture and have fun. Chinese New Year is the most highly anticipated Chinese holiday of the year for good reason — it’s a time of high spirits, bustling energy and many happy reunions.
How to Prepare for Chinese New Year
Planning for Chinese New Year involves two main themes. First, clearing away all of the previous year’s bad luck. And, second, preparing the home to receive the next year’s good luck. Use this day-by-day guide to known when to sweep out your home, visit the barber, decorate and cook a feast. Read More »
How to Decorate Your Home
Chinese New Year decorations use calligraphy, poetry, plants and food to express hopes for happiness, good luck and prosperity. Learn to use auspicious symbols that declare your family’s wishes for the year ahead, whether it’s longevity, career success or general abundance. Read More »
How to Give Red Envelopes
Red envelopes filled with lucky money are an iconic symbol of Chinese New Year. Exchanging red envelopes is all about the reciprocity of giving and receiving. See how these gestures of goodwill build relationships among family and friends. Read More »
Making Memories at a Chinese New Year Parade
Attending a Chinese New Year parade is a fun and exciting way for families to celebrate together. William Gee from San Francisco’s Chinese New Year Parade Committee share tips to help families get the most out of the experience. Read More »
Community Leaders Share Their Celebrations
Chinese New Year celebrations are part of a multicultural fabric that stretches across the United States. David Henry Hwang, Grace Young, Jean Quan, Richard On and more share how they celebrate Chinese New Year. Read More »
Food symbolism plays an especially important role during Chinese New Year, when almost every dish that’s served carries a wish for good luck, many offspring or good health in the future. Chinese New Year begins with a reunion dinner on New Year’s Eve that gathers family from far and wide, much in the same way Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. During the two weeks of celebration that follow, the feasting continues as friends and family share good tidings for the year ahead.
How to Plan a Family Reunion Dinner
Sumptuous and abundant, the family reunion dinner served on Chinese New Year’s Eve is undeniably a highlight of the entire holiday season. Use this planner, complete with recipes, to create a meal full of auspicious symbolism and delicious flavors for your family. Read More »
How to Make a Whole Steamed Fish
Perhaps no dish is more welcome during a Chinese New Year feast than a whole steamed fish. Symbolizing surplus and plenty, this iconic dish expresses a family’s hope for prosperity in the year ahead. Read More »
How to Make Traditional Pork Dumplings
Sitting around the kitchen table making dumplings is a common way to pass the hours before midnight on New Year’s Eve. Dumplings are thought to resemble gold ingots used as currency in ancient China. If you’re looking for an easy tradition for your family to adopt, this is a good candidate. Read More »
How to Make Glutinous Rice Dumplings
The glutinous rice dumplings known as tang yuan are the food most closely associated with the Lantern Festival, which marks the end of Chinese New Year. Follow along and learn to make these round, white dumplings that symbolize unity and family togetherness. Read More »
Crafts provide a great way to keep kids involved during Chinese New Year. School age children can write the good luck banners that decorate the home, while younger children can be responsible for keeping a Tray of Togetherness replenished. Either project is a great opportunity to open a conversation about Chinese New Year traditions.
How to Make a Good Luck Character Banner
Good luck banners hung around the home declare a family’s wishes for prosperity, luck and health in the coming year. Use this tutorial to write the fu or fook character for “good luck” or “blessings.” It’s a fun, 15-minute project that introduces your kids to Chinese calligraphy. Read More »
How to Make a Paper Firecracker Decoration
Firecrackers have scared off evil spirits during Chinese New Year since ancient times when a beast named Nian roamed the countryside. Making paper firecrackers is a fun afternoon project that can help kids connect with an important piece of old Chinese folklore. Read More »
How to Make a Festival Lantern
The appearance of red lanterns in Chinatown shop windows is a sure sign that Chinese New Year is approaching. Making a lantern is the perfect project to engage a child filled with holiday excitement, while providing parents an opportunity to share Chinese New Year themes and traditions. Read More »
How to Make a Tray of Togetherness
The days following New Year’s Day are filled with visits from family and friends. Welcome your guests with a traditional Tray of Togetherness, a sectional platter with eight compartments containing an assortment of sweets meant to wish them a sweet life in the year ahead. Read More »
Celebrating Chinese New Year requires a lot of preparation and the sidewalks in Chinatown are jammed as the holiday approaches. Despite the hectic pace, there’s really no better time for a visit, especially if you need to shop for special ingredients or decorations. It’s also a great idea to select a few children’s books to help introduce young readers to the holiday.
Best Children’s Books About Chinese New Year
While many children’s books use Chinese New Year to address various Chinese cultural topics, very few actually focus on the holiday itself. Fortunately, I’ve found seven that introduce Chinese New Year customs with kid-friendly narratives. Read More »
I hope you have a great time celebrating Chinese New Year this year with these easy activities, recipes and crafts. Please comment below if there are additional resources you would like to see added to the site!
HT: Photo by Bowers Museum.