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Celebrate the Lunar New Year

Every winter between late January and mid-February the Chinese New Year celebrations take over NYC. Here are some activities to help you and your family learn about this ancient holiday and celebrate it.

The Chinese Zodiac

The Chinese Zodiac, known as Sheng Xiao, is based on a twelve-year cycle, each year in that cycle related to an animal sign. These signs are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

Find your sign according to the Chinese Zodiac

Make a Book to Celebrate the Lunar New Year

Book for the Lunar New Year

See Making a Stick-&-Elastic Book. This book is made with red construction paper and a wooden chopstick.

Red is the symbol of good luck in China. To celebrate the new year, gifts of money are given in red envelopes, and wishes of good luck are written in red and gold. Gung Hay Fat Choy means best wishes for a prosperous and healthy new year. On the cover of my book I have written the symbol for good luck in Chinese, using a black marker. In 2011, I used a small rubber stamp of a rabbit to celebrate the year of the rabbit. Legend says that the rabbit lives in the moon. Your book could have poems about each animal in the Chinese zodiac, or your favorite Chinese food recipes, or your story of how you celebrated the Chinese New Year.

2011 - Year of the Rabbit

Activities for Chinese New Year

The Chinese lunar New Year falls on a different date every year, always in January or February. There are many places to celebrate this annual festival in New York City, with fireworks, the lion dance, delicious dumplings, and noisy crowds.

Use this marvelous celebration as a way to teach social studies (Chinese culture), science (explain the lunar calendar and the solar calendar), mythology and folktales (the animals in the Chinese zodiac), and the arts (dance, music, costumes). Let's not forget all of the phys. ed. you'll be doing chasing those parades!

At Asia Society families can celebrate the lunar new year with Chinese opera (translated for kids), kung fu demonstrations, a lion dance, Chinese folktale theater, and calligraphy. Lunar New Year weekend on Saturday afternoon, 725 Park Ave., admission $12/adults, $5/students, children and seniors.

At the Museum of Chinese in America (215 Centre St., nr. Grand), Sunday on Lunar New Year weekend is Festival Family Day. From 10 am to 5 pm enjoy storytelling, a noodle-making workshop, a lion dance performance and workshop, arts & crafts, and browse the museum exhibit. Admission $10/person.

Free festivities in Chinatown

The famous Lunar New Year Parade takes place on Sunday during Lunar New Year weekend. But there is another big bash on Saturday, 11 am - 3 pm: Chinese New Year's Day Firecracker Ceremony and Cultural Festival, in Roosevelt Park bet. Grand and Hester Streets. See singers, dancers, lions, dragons, marching through the streets of Chinatown. The Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade and Festival, Sunday Lunar New Year weekend, from 11:30 am - 4 pm, starts in Little Italy and goes through Chinatown, along Mott, Canal, and Bayard Sts., and along East Broadway. Over 5,000 people participate including martial artists, musicians and dancers.

At the China Institute on E. 65th St. a traditional lion dance will be performed by martial artists and acrobats, free, on Sunday Lunar New Year weekend, 11 am - noon.

In Queens, about 4,000 people march in the parade in Flushing very year, with dragon dancers, steel drummers, and fireworks, on Saturday Lunar New Year weekend, from 11 am - 1 pm, viewing stands will be at the Flushing library (Main and Kissena) and parade's end at Main St. and 39th Ave. At the Queens Crossing Mall performances continue.

Other celebrations in Queens happen at the Library in Flushing and other locations.

The Brooklyn Lunar New Year's parade is in Sunset Park, Noon to 1 p.m.: starting at Eighth Avenue and 50th Street.

Books about Chinese New Year

  • Lao Lao of Dragon Mountain, Margaret Bateson-Hill, illustrated by Francesca Pelizzoli. This beautifully designed and illustrated folktale includes instructions on how to make a snowflake, a butterfly, a flower, and a dragon from cut paper.
  • Cat and Rat: The Legend of the Chinese Zodiac, Ed Young. A charming story telling the ancient legend of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac.
  • Moonbeams, Dumplings and Dragon Boats: A Treasury of Chinese Holiday Tales, Activities and Recipes, by Nina Simonds and Leslie Schwartz, and the Boston Children's Museum. Delightfully illustrated and informative, with recipes & activities.
  • Sam and the Lucky Money, by Karen Chinn, Cornelius Van Wright, and Yong-Hwa Hu. A story about Chinese New Year in New York's Chinatown, seen through the eyes of a young boy.
  • The Spirit of the Chinese Character: Gifts from the Heart, by Barbara Aria and Russell Eng Gon. A beautiful, simple introduction to Chinese calligraphy with just forty characters. Also excellent is the companion book The Nature of the Chinese Character. For ages 10-adult.
  • More Chinese New Year books for children.

    January 2017