Teaching Chinese New Year!

Teaching Chinese New Year

The American New Year is not the only New Year’s celebration in popular culture, there is also the Chinese New Year to celebrate!  Although the Chinese New Year does not get as much attention in Social Studies classrooms, it should because it is a tradition full of rich history and meaning, especially for students who celebrate it. Here are the basics about Chinese new year and ways you can support your learners while teaching Chinese New Year.

I firmly believe in the importance of engaging students in the exploration of cultures and celebrations outside of their own to help them build understanding, awareness, and empathy toward others. One of the ways I choose to do this is to introduce students to the wondrous Chinese New Year.  

It just so happens that in 2021, the Chinese New Year will begin on February 12th! 

What celebrations take place? 

The Chinese New Year isn’t just a one-day celebration, but a series of celebrations from February 12th to February 26th. It’s important to note, however, that the Chinese New Year does not take place on the same day each year because it follows the lunar calendar.

Traditionally, the Chinese New Year starts with the Laba Festival, which is a series of memorial ceremonies in which celebrants pray to ancestors and the gods for fortune and a successful harvest. The main dish for the celebration is the Laba porridge, which includes many types of grains, red beans, red dates, and husk rice. Also, Laba tofu, noodles, and wheat kernel rice are included in the traditional food items.

The final celebration of the Chinese New Year is the Lantern Festival, which is held on February 26th of 2021. This is a popular festival where celebrants create paper lanterns and craft riddles or mottos to write on the lanterns.

Year of the Ox

The Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival, signifies the transition from one year to the next using Chinese zodiac animals. 2020 was the year the Rat, and the year of 2021 will be the year of the Ox.  The Zodiac sign of a year is based on a 12-year cycle of Chinese zodiac signs. The 12 zodiac animals in order are the Rat, Ox, Tiger,  Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and the Pig. 

The origins of the Chinese Zodiacs date all the way back to the Qin dynasty more than 2000 years ago. To this day, Chinese zodiacs remain a significant part of daily life in China and much of Asia.

As a fun classroom activity, have students research their Chinese zodiac symbols based on their birth year using the chart found here

The Ox

Your students might be wondering how is the Ox significant? In Chinese culture, the ox is a revered animal because it is honest, intelligent, steadfast, a hard worker, and although strong, is also level-headed and not prone to outbursts and anger. Recent years of the Ox include 1997 and 2009. 

Product Pairing 

To celebrate the Chinese New Year and help students understand the significance of this cultural event, I created a set of fun and engaging activities with both print and digital versions for teachers to use in the classroom.  In just one day, students will review the history of the Chinese New Year, adventure on a WebQuest, and even create a unique Chinese lantern craftivity that makes for a great class display! 

I am always excited to see how my products help teachers and engage students in Social Studies content. Please share your crafitivities below and any other ideas about how you share the Chinese New Year with your students! 

Looking for more resources for teaching Chinese New Year?

  • If you’re interested in the digital version, you can purchase that here.
  • If you’re looking for a SUPER bundle of ALL of my February holiday activities {both digital and paper}, click here
  • And if you’re looking for a full year of holiday resources for every month, click here

Teaching Chinese New Year!


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