Tag Archives: New Year

Welcome, Year of the Dragon!

Photo courtesy of China News

While most of us are still working on the New Year’s resolutions we made just weeks ago, it’s already time to say Happy New Year again as we celebrate Chinese New Year.

The Chinese calendar follows no fixed date and the new year is determined by the moon. This year, Chinese New Year begins on Jan. 22 with Lunar New Year’s Eve.

The new year, number 4710 on the Chinese calendar – officially begins Jan. 23 and marks the beginning of the Year of the Dragon.

According to legend, Buddha asked all the animals to say goodbye to him when it was his time to leave the earth.

But only 12 animals showed up for the farewell so to honor them Buddha assigned an animal to each of the years in a 12-year cycle.

The legend states that the rat was the first to arrive and so got the first year in the cycle.

The cat failed to show up at all and that is why there is no year of the cat.

Some people believe that you share personality traits with the animal assigned to the year you were born. If you are born in the year of the dragon, you are thought to be brave, enterprising, and quick-tempered.

For educational activities on Chinese New Year and Chinese culture, check out Apples4theteacher.com.

For a KidCulture reading list about Chinese New Year, click here.

Learn more about how families celebrate Chinese New Year around the world with this KidCulture article, Global Family Fun: Celebrate Chinese New Year.

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10 Things Kids Should Know About Diwali

Happy Diwali! Although most Americans are unfamiliar with the festival of Diwali, it is celebrated by millions of people around the world.

Here are ten things kids should know about Diwali:

1. Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs.

2. The holiday celebrates the triumph of good over evil.

3. One of the most popular interpretations of the holiday is that it commemorates the return of Lord Rama, who left his home and battled a ten-headed dragon. When he returned home after 14 years, villagers laid out lanterns to line the route.

4. Diwali means “row of light.”

5. Diwali is also a new year’s celebration.

6. To celebrate Diwali, observers go to temple and pray, light small clay lamps, wear new clothes, fireworks, and share delicious food with family and friends.

7. Diwali was first celebrated at the White House in 2003; in 2009, President Barack Obama participated in the White House Diwali celebration.

8. Diwali is one of the most important festivals for Hindus.

9. Diwali is celebrated for five days.

10. To wish a friend a happy holiday, you can say “Happy Diwali” in English or “Deepavali ki Shubhkamnayein” in Hindi.

Host your own celebration at home tonight by making Coconut Chicken and Vegetable Curry from Kitchen Explorers on PBS.


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Explore Korean Food for Chinese New Year

Not only is Korean food fun to pronounce, it’s delicious to eat.

Although Korean food is less well known than Japanese and Chinese food, according to food experts, it’s set to be the hot new cuisine in 2011.

Adults trying Korean food for the first time may want to choose items that are similar to foods they already know and like. Tangsuyuk is like sweet and sour chicken. Kalbi is beef on the bone, similar to spare ribs.

For adults who love spicy food, try kimchi jigae, a spicy stew.

For children, mandu soup is a great place to begin because it’s similar to wonton soup. If they’re willing to try tofu, it’s a great, healthy choice. Tofu is flavor-friendly; with just a little soy sauce it’s similar to eating plain rice.

Bim Bim Bap is also a good choice for children because you can control the spiciness.

If they’re into noodles, ramyan are thin noodles served with broth.


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Books About Chinese New Year

Here are some suggestions for children’s books about Chinese New Year. Enjoy!

Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chinn, Cornelius Van Wright, and Ying-Hwa Hu

My First Chinese New Year by Karen Katz

Happy Chinese New Year, Kai-lan! By Lauryn Silverhardt, Jason Fruchter, and Aka Chikasawa

Dragon Dance: A Chinese New Year Lift-the-Flap Book by Joan Holub and Benrei Huang

The Runaway Wok: A Chinese New Year Tale by Ying Chang Compestine and Sebastia Serra


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The Year of the Ox

180px-dihuamarketrat2My family’s first experience with Chinese New Year was when my son attended pre-school in central New Jersey and one of his classmates distributed Barney-themed red envelopes filled with a crisp new dollar bill.  I thought it was so cool – a cross between Valentine’s Day and Halloween – and I wanted to learn more.

One of the things I like best about the holiday is the communal spirit.  Family members work together to prepare treats to help welcome in a prosperous new year.  For example, fish, dumplings, mandarin oranges, and noodles are traditional staples in the meal. 

To help teach my son about the holiday, we read My First Chinese New Year by Karen Katz.  The pictures are vivid and the story focuses on how one young girl prepares for the new year.  The best part is getting to yell “Gung Hay Fat Choy!” at the end of the book.  51rebrkxaxl_sl160_pisitb-sticker-arrow-dptopright12-18_sh30_ou01_aa115_1

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Auld Acquantaince


Unless your lives are vastly different from mine, once you had kids you probably curbed your wild New Year’s Eve celebrations.  Nowadays, I celebrate with a yummy dinner with my son, maybe a movie, and a valiant effort to stay awake until midnight.

In many cultures, New Year’s is the biggest celebration of the year.  In Burkina Faso, people save up their money to have new clothes made for them.  They prepare feasts and dance all night with friends and family.  At midnight, there might be sporadic gunfire as people shoot their rifles into the sky.  In other parts of Africa there are fireworks.

Fundamentally, I like New Year’s not for the parties or the food or the fireworks but for the reminder that every day is a fresh start.  

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Filed under Africa, Holiday