Chinese New Year: The Year of the Horse

Chinese New Year: The Year of the Horse

Chinese New Year 2014 is the year of the Wood Horse, ushered in on January 31st. Take this opportunity to discover the cultural traditions, folk stories and history of the Chinese New Year with your kids and have fun!

If New Year’s Eve was actually a full two weeks worth of celebrating, what things would you add to it? 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. But what else would you want to celebrate if you had fifteen days to fill? What parts of your history and culture would you include?

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. This year, the Chinese New Year will be celebrated beginning on January 31st, 2014, and will honor the year of the horse.

There are lots and lots of ways to explore the traditions surrounding the Chinese New Year with kids – a quick investigation with younger kids might involve reading a children’s book and eating traditional foods, while older kids might spend time making some of the holiday’s traditional decorations and reading about the historic roots of these traditions.

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. Additionally, the festival 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 one of these upcoming celebrations:

Can’t get away, bring the red lanterns and dragons to your own home and community by making some of your own.

[Photo credit: (cc) Mark]

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