“Tell me, I’ll forget. Show me, I may remember. But involve me, and I’ll understand.”
– Chinese Proverb
America’s celebration of the new year is okay, I guess… but the traditions associated with it are not so much fun for little ladies who aren’t yet old enough to stay up past bedtime. It’s kind of a bummer as far as fun holidays for kids go.
However, my daughters are very much in love with a Nick Jr. show called Ni hao, Kai-lan. Kai-lan is a little Chinese girl who is helps her animal buddies get along with each-other by being a SUPER good friend. Along the way, she ‘teaches’ her pint-sized living room audience bits of the Chinese language and traditions.
When it was time for the Chinese New year, T and Ro were very excited to have our own celebration just like Kai Lan! EVERYTHING we know about this holiday came from the show and from a great Karen Katz book called My first Chinese New Year, so if you’re actually knowledgeable about the subject, you might have to forgive our bumbling first attempts!
We tried to do our own versions of as many of the traditions as we could. The girls started decorating the weekend before by making, playing with, and hanging red and ‘gold’ (yellow) paper lanterns.
This is a REALLY simple craft that they had an amazing amount of fun with. (A tutorial can be found here if you’d like to try it!)
We also decorated the walls with ‘cut papers all red and bright.’ The color red, in China, is associated with good luck. Many of the traditions for this holiday are meant to usher good luck into the household in the year to come. We also tried to use a lot of yellow and gold glitter, because the color for The Chinese Year of the Dragon is gold!
The girls used their little brooms to sweep away the ‘bad luck’ from last year, so that the house was clean to accept the good luck for the year to come. We put out a bowl of oranges (to bring luck and money) and on Chinese New Year day, everyone wore a bit of red in celebration of this fun and new (to us) holiday!
One thing that was mentioned often in our book is a big feast with many traditional foods held on new year’s eve, but I wasn’t down with learning how to make Chinese dumplings, and I couldn’t find anything at the grocery store that looked like my kiddos would touch at lunch time. Instead we had dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets (except we called them dragons, because 2012 is the year of the dragon). We also had oranges, and Chinese noodles (okay, so Chinese noodles = Top Ramen FTW!) Fortune cookies were devoured for desert, along with rice pudding! Yummy!
During the littler kids nap time, Teagan and Abby made red envelopes for everyone (another very simple project).
Instead of filling them with money, as is the custom, we put Kai-Lan fruit snacks inside! After naps, the girls set to work making Chinese dragon puppets. . .
I scoured the internet for inspiration on how to make these, but I didn’t find anything *quite* right for my crowd. In the end, we blended several versions to create one that worked for us! We used a very small paper plate folded in half for the head (with glitter, googly eyes, and feathers – of course!), a piece of fan-folded red construction paper for the body (with more feathers attached to the tail), and a large popsicle-stick for our handle. We also attached ribbons to the back to make it more fun!
These were easy enough for the smallest of crafters to do with a bit of help, but complicated enough that the biggest had fun making them, too!
Our Chinese dragons turned out adorably! Each girl did hers differently, so they were distinctive enough for easy identification. . . Teagan got clever on us and added feathery wings to hers!
(top to bottom and left to right: Rowan, Alex, Cordy, Jules, and Teagan – front and back views)
While we were waiting for the glue on our dragons to dry, we all sat down for storytime and everyone got to open their lucky red envelopes!
Needless to say, the Kai-Lan fruit snacks were a hit!
To finish off the day, we had a Chinese New Year DRAGON PARADE!!! Of course our sugar-fueled happy dragon parade quickly turned into a race of tiny roaring dragons! Chaos ensued, but that’s half the fun!
All in all, we had a really fun Chinese New Year, and learned a LOT about the traditions and culture surrounding this fantastic holiday! The girls are already looking forward to doing it again next year – and so am I!
A side note for those of you wondering what on EARTH that child is wearing – and why. . .
This silly little outfit is a relic from . . . gosh, the 70’s, I guess. My mom tells me that she received it in a bag of hand-me-down clothing when my older brother was a tot. Somehow it survived him, then me, and my three younger siblings and ended up lost in her attic. Sometime after Teagan was too big for it, but before Rowan was born, it came into my possession. I kept it because it’s in perfect condition, but I didn’t think that I’d ever actually put it on any child of mine! When I came across it again on Chinese New Year’s Eve, it seemed like the ideal time to try it out! Rowan, for the record, absolutely LOVES it. I was glad to have gotten these pictures early, because she had already covered it in breakfast before we even got to the fun stuff! Silly thing!