Chinese New Year Lesson for Kids: History & Facts

Instructor: Jennifer Lowery

Jennifer has taught elementary levels K-3 and has master's degrees in elementary education and curriculum/instruction and educational leadership.

The Chinese New Year is the biggest celebration and holiday in China. In this lesson, discover the history of this holiday, and the symbols and traditions people share not just in China but all over the world.

Happy New Year!

If someone came up to you and said 'Gung Hay Fat Choy,' you would probably be a little confused, right? But if you live in China or many other Asian countries, this phrase would be a familiar saying during the biggest holiday of the year, Chinese New Year. When someone says this to another person, they are saying, 'Best wishes and have a prosperous New Year.' The Chinese New Year lasts fifteen days each year, and people celebrate with many traditions and festivities. On the last night, people end the celebration with a lantern festival. During this tradition, people release paper lanterns into the night sky to symbolize letting go of the past and looking forward to a good coming year.

On the last night of the Chinese New Year, lanterns are lit for the lantern festival.
red lanterns

History of Chinese New Year

The story of how Chinese New Year got started is full of mystery and excitement. Many centuries ago, people believed a scary monster called Nian would attack villages around the start of the year. This monster could be run out of the village with loud noises, flashing lights, and anything that was colored bright red. The dates of the celebration are a little different each year, because the holiday marks the first new moon of the new year.

Holiday Symbols and Traditions

Chinese New Year is often a time to honor relatives and friends who are no longer living. Also, many people take the time to completely clean their house. The belief is that this thorough cleaning will get rid of any bad luck, and make way for good luck in the new year.

Food is often a big part of any celebration, right? That's very true for the Chinese New Year. Special foods are prepared for specific days, and these foods often have meaning for why they are being prepared. One type of food often served is Nian gao, which is a sweet cake. Fish is often served as well, but it is not always eaten. The belief is that the leftover fish symbolizes that in the coming year there will be an abundance of food.

Special foods are prepared each day of the fifteen day celebration of Chinese New Year.
Food for Chinese New Year

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