Chinese New Year is undoubtedly the most significant of all Chinese holidays. Its timing differs from January 1 because it is based on the Chinese lunar/solar calendar (and often referred to as “Lunar New Year”). In addition, it is celebrated over the course of 15 days. It kicks off with a traditional New Year’s Eve celebration and ends on the 15th with a lantern festival. This year, Chinese New Year started on Monday, January 23 and it kicks off the Year of the Dragon. (Chinese years correspond with the Chinese zodiac animals on a 12-year cycle.)
My favorite Chinese New Year tradition is the family reunion that takes place on New Years Eve. Sadly, it is often the only time many Chinese family members see each other all year. The lengths to which people in China have to go just to return home for Chinese New Year astound me. It is the world’s largest yearly migration of people and it makes traveling over the holidays in the United States look like a piece of cake. As we mentioned in last year’s post, the movie Last Train Home documents this phenomenon well (IMDB link here, Troy’s review here). Also, here is a short news clip of the travel challenges faced in China this year. Puts our little Chinese New Year gathering into perspective – nobody has to travel further than 30 minutes.
Another favorite Chinese New Year tradition for me is the house cleaning. (Okay, red envelopes filled with cash are undeniably more fun, but I am the one who needs to put the cash in the envelope…) Not that I like house cleaning per se (in fact I loathe it). What I like is the notion of sweeping out the old year to make room for the new year.
Take that, dust bunnies!
Sadly, our old year is still crowding our house a bit. All we really accomplished is the literal (but apparently much-needed) sweeping of the floor. My storage/aka junk/aka “I don’t know where to put this” room has grown in frightening proportions this last year. New Years resolution: make sure those piles leave with 2012.
Madelyn enjoyed reading and talking about Chinese New Year this year. Two of her favorite New Year books were Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin and The Dancing Dragon by Marcia K. Vaughan. Both of the books, but especially the second, have a fun fold-out dragon feature that Madelyn absolutely loved, prompting us to hang a giant dragon from our ceiling. 12-feet long, and actually pretty awesome at just $6 from Oriental Trading Company! (Again, 2012 is Year of the Dragon in case you missed it…)
I also thought this year would be a good year to try some Chinese New Year crafts with Madelyn as she is just starting to use scissors and paste somewhat proficiently. I looked online and gathered a few ideas that I also put on our Olson Family Matters “Chinese New Year” Pinterest board. I decided to personally try both the dragon puppet and cut-and-paste-lantern with Madelyn. The dragon puppet was moderately successful.
Actually, Madelyn was very excited about it! But when she started dancing with it, she kept losing control of one of the sticks leaving it to fly through the air as she twirled around. After I nearly lost my eye, I made an executive decision to put it up “for display only.” I tried to distract her with the lantern project, but it was a bit of a bust. Madelyn is still working on her scissor skills and she quickly lost interest in cutting tissue paper pieces to decorate her lantern. I might try this one with her again, but pre-cut the pieces and let her just paste them on.
We are also looking forward to hosting a small family dinner to celebrate Chinese New Year next weekend – we will be sure to post pictures in our Weekly Recap for that week.
Xīn Nián Kuài Lè! (“Happy New Year!”) (Click on link to hear pronunciation.)
Gōng xǐ fā cái, hóng bāo ná lái! (“Congratulations and be prosperous, now give me a red envelope!”)
- Tricia Olson, 2012