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Simple Chinese New Year Ideas

If you look for any reason to have a fete, February is a great month, offering a ton of opportunities: Groundhog Day, Chinese New Year, Valentine's Day. This year, Chinese New Year falls on Thursday, February 3rd. Traditionally, this is the beginning of a 15 day festival that fell between the harvest and spring planting. There is much celebration surrounding the holiday - gifts, gatherings, dinners, good wishes for the coming year - it seems to me that, like Christmas, it is a celebration of love, family, friends, health and good cheer.

I love to learn about other cultures, their beliefs and traditions and to share various festivals with my children. And, given that our winter is so long, I particularly look forward to any celebration that falls between Old Christmas Day and Easter. (Actually, scratch that - I like to make a deal about Cinco de Mayo too... and that is in May!). Over the years, we've developped a few rituals in our family, to mark the Chinese New Year:
  • In the Chinese culture, it is customary to give children red envelopes filled with money as a New Year's treat. Years ago, I actually found some pretty ones at Pier One that had beautiful symbols and Chinese calligraphy on them. They're long gone now, so this year I'll be using plain red envelopes that I will decorate with gold ink and my Chinese zodiac stamps. These will be placed next to the cutlery for the boys to open at supper.
  • I always look up the character traits of our zodiac signs, and the predictions for each of us for the coming year. I'll write these down on a card and also place at the table setting. It is fun to compare our signs' traits to our personalities - Toad always takes his Monkey status very seriously!
  • We try to make decorations in red & gold that represent the coming year. 2011 marks the beginning of the Year of the Rabbit.
  • We usually have a stir fry &/or Chinese Rice. Maybe this will be the year we take out chopsticks!
  • My favourite part? Reading "The Great Race" by David Bouchard. It has beautiful, beautiful illustrations. It is a legend about how the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac came to be in the order they are in....charming story.
You'll find a great overview of Chinese New Year on Kaboose. To determine your complete astrology sign and find your horoscope for the coming year, check out the Chinese Fortune Calendar.  For a simplier calculation, child friendly links, as well as recipes and descriptions of traditions, visit And for colouring sheets, crafts and books for the children, visit Kiddy House.

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

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