Chinese New Year

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Gung hay fat choy
"Best Wishes and Congratulations"

The Chinese New Year is the most important celebration of the year in China. It starts with the New Moon on the first day of the new year and ends on the full moon 15 days later. The Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year.  The new year always starts sometime before spring, between mid-January and mid-February. Some important things for the Chinese people to do to prepare for the new year are:

  • plan a huge feast

  • get lucky red apples and tangerines or oranges

  • clean their houses and stores

  • fill their homes with flowers and fruit

  • hang red scrolls on their windows and doors

  • hang paper lanterns

  • pay off debts (money owed)

  • get haircuts

  • wear new clothes

  • plan the fireworks

  • get the dragon ready for the parade

  • pay their respects to their ancestors at the temple

  • get leisees ready for the children

A great song that really explains the Chinese New Year in an easy to understand way can be found at Nancy Stewart's site. Click on the dragon.

To print the words click on the lantern below.


This PBS Kids link provides a fun way for children to experience how the Chinese get ready for the new year!



Okay, I bet you are wondering what leisees are! Another name for leisee is lucky money. A leisee is a small red envelope that is decorated with a symbol that represents good luck. The symbols are in gold. You might see a lantern, a Chinese junk, two golden mandarins, a dragon, a giant peach, orange, or apples. Crisp one dollar bills are tucked inside these envelopes for good fortune. They are given to children on New Year's Day. Red is the color of good luck.

Make Your Own Leisee Leisee My Leisee Pattern
Leisee Passage

New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are celebrated as a family affair because it is a time of reunion and thanksgiving. It gives people a chance for a new start. It is a time of new beginnings...a new year, new crops, new luck and happiness. On the seventh day of the new year the Chinese people add a year to their age on New Year's Day! The Chinese believe that what happens on New Year's Day will happen all year long. Children are warned to be on their best behavior. Here are some things the Chinese people keep in mind during this time of celebration:

  • think good thoughts

  • speak only kind words

  • give presents


The Dragon Parade

The Dragon Parade is a very significant part of the New Year celebration, we were told. During the parade loud music plays and firecrackers light up the sky. The dragon is very big and is carried by many men. Dragons are considered to be very auspicious. You see them all over China when you are touring. The Chinese believe that dragons are strong and good. Once a year the dragon comes to wish everyone peace and good luck.

Click below to find directions for making dragons for your celebration!

Dragon Puppet Egg Carton Dragon Dragons on Parade
Dancing Dragon Parade Dragon Puppet Dashing Dragons
Fire Breathing Dragons Dragon Kites Egg Box Dragon
The Lantern Festival

The 15th day of the new year is called the Lantern Festival, which is celebrated at night with lantern displays and children carrying lanterns in a parade.

Honoring Ancestors

The sacrifice to the ancestors, the most vital of all the rituals, united the living members with those who had passed away. Departed relatives are remembered with great respect because they were responsible for laying the foundations for the fortune and glory of the family. The presence of the ancestors is acknowledged on New Year's Eve with a dinner arranged for them at the family banquet table. The spirits of the ancestors, together with the living, celebrate the onset of the New Year as one great community. The communal feast called "surrounding the stove" or weilu. It symbolizes family unity and honors the past and present generations.

As we traveled throughout China it became very apparent that there are many good luck colors and numbers. Many things are considered to be auspicious! Here is some of what we learned relative to the Chinese New Year.
  • Colors- good luck and joy

  • Flower blossoms- longevity and courage

  • Candy trays- growth, good health, abundance and togetherness

  • Red scrolls- good health, luck, long life, prosperity, and happiness

  • Chicken- prosperity

  • Uncut noodles- long life

  • Fish- togetherness, abundance, success

  • Lotus seed- many children

Click below to see some Chinese New Year Symbols! The three banners to the right were produced in my classroom. has a great translator. We were told some popular Chinese New Year sayings. I produced these, printed them on white oaktag, then the children used gold glitter paint to decorate their banners.

Banner 1

Banner 2

Banner 3


One thing we couldn't get over no matter where we ate when we were in China was the serving of food "whole!" If it was a chicken dish you would have the head, feet...everything! Fish was served with the head, fins, and tail. Walking through markets you would see everything. In a shopping mall we saw two children eating what looked like lizard on a stick, much like you would see a child in the U.S. eating a corn dog on a stick! I wish I had gotten a picture of that!

We learned that the new year's meal had to consist of a Vegetarian Monk's dish, a fish, pork, beef, and vegetables. The importance of leaving on all of the parts has to do with the belief that leaving the animal "whole" symbolizes an abundant food supply for the coming year! We were also told that the fruit called lotus was an especially important food to have for the celebration. People get their lotus far ahead of time. We saw many lotus growing throughout China. The lotus seed is said to help people to have many male children.

Lotus growing


Lotus fruit

Miss Cloonan and Mrs. Smith's Classes
Celebrate the Chinese New Year
Getting Ready for the Dragon Parade
Here We Go Parading and Singing Throughout Cuyler!
Teaching Miss Cloonan's Class to Make Chinese Lanterns
Chinese Food...YUMMY!!!   Chopsticks...TRICKY!!!
Click on the chopsticks  to view pictures of our 2009 Chinese New Year celebration!
Chinese New Year Websites
Chinese New Year Song San Francisco's Chinatown  
Click on the Fu symbol to go back to the main page.



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Marie L. Smith
Red Creek Central School District
Margaret W. Cuyler Elementary School
Red Creek, NY 13143
Last updated 6/20/09