(1) Chinese New Year Food
Celebrating Chinese New Year Eve is probably the most important family matter each year. And the food is the most important element of this most important event. As Westerners indulge the meal with a lot of cakes and desserts, the Chinese indulge themselves with a lot of meat: pork, chicken, beef, lamb, seafood, etc. They are symbols of a plentiful and generous meal.
Source of image: http://3g.tuxi.com.cn/
Many families will also make dumplings together from scratch. Sometimes a coin is put inside the dumpling fillings. The person who bites into the coin is considered to have good luck for the new year to come. In part 4 ‘Chinese New Year Games for your Online Classroom’, I have designed a game to learn ‘dumpling-making’ vocabularies.
(2) Spring Festival Gala
Spring Festival Gala is a phenomenal entertainment event for the phenomenal New Year Eve. The Gala party starts at 8 pm on New Year’s Eve and lasts until dawn the next day (officially the first day of the lunar year). The program is filled with shows by the most talented people in the country: singing, dancing, magic show, comedy shows and sketchy comedies, etc. The main party is live-streamed in Beijing with several sub parties being hosted paralleled around the country. At midnight, everyone synchronised to do the count down together.
Every year about 1.1 billion people watch the Spring Festival Gala. In terms of national significance, the closest Western equivalent I can think of is the US Super Bowl.
(3) Chinese New Year Animals
Chinese calendar years run on a repeating 12-year cycle. Each lunar year is assigned an animal. For people who were born during a particular lunar year, they will associate themselves with the assigned zodiac animal of the year. The twelve Chinese zodiac animals are rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. For example, the year of Ox starts from the 12th of February 2021 so anyone born after/upon that day will be an Ox.
Source of image: http://huaban.com/
Talking about the 12 zodiac animals is a great conversation opener. There are 12 Chinese zodiac animal toys or finger puppets on Amazon or eBay if you would like to hold these animal objects for show and display. (But make sure the toys or puppets are the right animals). In part 4 ‘Chinese New Year Games for your Online Classroom’, I have designed a fun and educational game using these 12 zodiac animals.
(4) Chinese New Year Red Pockets
The new year holiday is also perfect for visiting relatives and friends to send each other Chinese New Year greetings. ‘串门’, the Chinese expression to describe these visits, can be literally translated as ‘moving doors’. While ‘moving doors’, adults will give Chinese New Year red packets to children. Red pockets are red envelopes adults give to children with brand new pocket money inside. That is one of the reasons why children are so excited about New Year.
Again, you can buy packs of red pockets online or in Chinese grocery stores. In part 4 I will share a game to ‘open red pocket, get your fortune’ to teach some good manners in English in a fun way.
(5) Chinese New Year Decoration
Red is the colour for happiness and fortune in Chinese culture and thus the default colour for Chinese New Year. Lanterns on the street, paper couplets at home, and dresses on people will be red, red, and red. It is considered impolite to wear white (a colour for mourning) for jubilant events such as weddings and Chinese New Year. In part 5 I will share some decoration ideas for your online classroom.