Chinese New Year Brings Opportunities for Cultural Studies

Chinese New Year Brings Opportunities for Cultural Studies

Ringing in the year of the fire monkey, Chinese New Year takes place this year on February 8, 2016. By exploring Chinese art, food, music, and traditions, families can gain background knowledge to support participation in regional celebrations of the lunar holiday.

If New Year’s Eve was actually a full two weeks worth of celebrating, what elements would you add to the event? Besides ringing in a new calendar year, we often spend a little bit of time reflecting on the past year and making plans for bettering ourselves during the coming one when New Year’s Eve rolls around. But what if the celebration lasted for fifteen days instead of just a single one!? With more time dedicated to beginning a new year, what parts of local culture would you like to have as a part of the celebration?

After a family brainstorm of your ideal two-week New Year’s celebration, explore the traditions of the Chinese New Year and compare. Celebrations of the Chinese New Year do, in fact, cover a full fifteen days. And it’s second name – the Lunar New Year – explains why it takes place after our own calendars have already rolled over to the next year.

The Chinese calendar is lunisolar, meaning that the date indicates both the current moonphase and the time of the solar year. Because of this, the Chinese New Year takes place on a different date on our own calendars each year, and is always held between a month and a month and a half after our own January 1st New Year’s celebration. In 2016, the Chinese New Year will be celebrated beginning on February 8th, and will honor the year of the fire monkey.

By Kenny Louie from Vancouver, Canada - Good health and good fortune, CC BY 2.0, $3Families can explore Chinese culture by learning about the celebrations surrounding the new year. From food to hong bao (red money packets) to day trips to regional cultural celebrations, families can choose from many different ways to explore Chinese culture while celebrating the coming of the new year.

Explorations of Chinese culture can begin with our rich list of children’s titles by author Demi exploring Chinese art and traditions offering young readers a visual feast for learning about the Chinese aesthetic, and music for the lunar new year can add aural elements to the ushering in of the red monkey. Additionally, the Springfield Museums’ online collection of Asian Art speaks to the culture’s roots year-round. Bellies filled with traditional new year foods can inspire further explorations of specific beliefs and practices by using a curriculum as a guide!

According to Chinese legend, the color red plays a central role in welcoming the new year. Believed to have scared off the beast Nian, who celebrated the new year by attacking villages and stealing food, red is everywhere during Chinese New Year, as a symbol of luck and good fortune. The festival also involves lots of lanterns and dragons – it’s the festival where you’ll find a humongous swaying dragon parading down city streets.

If you can’t make it to a far away destination to see it for yourself, take a day trip to an upcoming celebration nearby in New England:

  • In Brattleboro, VT, families can celebrate the new year of China alongside those of Korea and Vietnam at the Asian Cultural Center of Vermont on Sunday, February 7, 2016. This local cultural event will include calligraphy, Asian crafts, Tai Chi, and of course, a 30-foot dragon!
  • In Boston, MA, families can experience a big city Chinese New Year parade on Sunday, February 14, 2016. A parade will kickoff in Chinatown at 11am, and a cultural village will be set up for exploration from 12noon-3pm.

[Photo credits: (cc) IQRemix; (cc) Kenny Louie; (cc) aotaro

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