Lunar New Year Brings Opportunities for Cultural Studies

Ringing in the Year of the Earth Pig!

Chinese New Year (also referred to as the Lunar New Year and Spring Festival) takes place this year on February 5, 2019.  By exploring art, food, music, and traditions, families can gain background knowledge to support participation in regional celebrations of the lunar holiday. Getting curious about the associated zodiac can lead you to discover the mythology behind the calendar while learning how other cultures, like Vietnam and Thailand, adapted the zodiac to reflect the values and habitat of their communities.

If American New Year’s Eve was 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. It’s common name, the Lunar New Year, explains why it takes place after our calendars have already rolled over to the next year.

The Chinese calendar is lunisolar, meaning that the date indicates both the current moon phase and the time of the solar year. Because of this, the Chinese Lunar New Year takes place on a different date on our 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 2019, the Chinese Lunar New Year will be celebrated beginning on February 5th and will honor the year of the Earth Pig.

Let the Lunar New Year lead you to learn about food traditions that are part of the celebrations surrounding the new year. Traditions of the new year are found in a wide range, from food to hong bao (red money packets), to day trips to regional cultural celebrations. You can choose many different ways to explore Chinese and other celebrating cultures while celebrating the coming of the new lunar year. Bellies filled with traditional new year foods can inspire further explorations of specific beliefs and practices by using a curriculum as a guide! Check out this video that gives a glimpse into some of the food traditions associated with the Chinese 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 New Lunar Year. Additionally, the Springfield Museums’ online collection of Asian Art speaks to the culture’s roots year-round. Other community-based educational events that are just a day trip away include thew Year d cover a ful annual Lion Dance Parade in Boston and Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade & Festival in Manhattan!

[Photo credits: (cc) Kenny Louie] 

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