History of the Chinese New Year

Posted by The Home School in the Woods Team on

The new year is fast approaching, and here in the United States, we celebrate with fireworks, a toast to good health, and staying up until midnight (if you can manage to stay up that late!).

In other cultures, the New Year is a much longer celebration, with rich traditions dating back thousands of years. One of those traditions is the Chinese New Year, also called the Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival. 

This fascinating tradition makes for many unique hands-on crafts and activities for your little ones – plus, you can use it as a jumping-off point to study the rest of ancient China as a whole!

Let’s briefly dig into the history of the Chinese New Year and how, with our Great Empires Activity Study, you can teach your kids about other aspects of Chinese culture.

The History of the Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year is an ancient celebration that takes place in China and other Chinese communities every year, lasting approximately 15 days. 

You may have also heard this event referred to as the Lunar New Year since the celebration follows the moon’s phases – starting with the new moon and ending with the full moon. 

The celebration is also referred to as the Spring Festival because it marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Many Chinese cultures use this time to wind down and rest and even take the entire week off from work (sounds pretty nice, huh?).

But what exactly kicked off this historical Chinese tradition?

As you know, many ancient celebrations come with a story to tell. In this case, legend has it that thousands of years ago, a monster named Nian, which can be translated as “Year,” would attack Chinese villages at the start of the new year. Luckily, the villagers learned that the monster had some weaknesses – loud noises and bright light (specifically the color red).

Every year, the villagers would ward off this monster, which has become a metaphor for “bad luck,” with firework shows, firecrackers, red apparel, and decorations like lanterns. Another Chinese New Year tradition includes giving children money in lucky red envelopes as a good luck wish for the coming year. 

Speaking of good luck, you’ve probably seen dragons associated with this holiday. Since the dragon symbolizes good luck in Chinese culture, the Chinese New Year celebration ends with a long and colorful dragon parading the street with dancing villagers. 

Other Chinese New Year traditions include the Lantern Festival, where beautiful lanterns are hung across the village and in temples. 

Many people also make special foods during this week-long tradition, one of the most famous being spring rolls. These delicious rolls symbolize the beginning of spring and bring blessings by warding off evil spirits with pungent ingredients like onions, garlic, and leeks. 

In fact, we have a tasty spring roll recipe you can whip up with your kids so they can get a real taste of authentic Chinese New Year food. After all, we’re big believers in using historical food to engage children in a hands-on and creative way. 

How to Teach Children About the Chinese New Year

There are so many Chinese New Year decorations and traditions you can use as a way to teach your children about the interesting and historical celebration.

Did you know that this coming year (2023) is the year of the rabbit

The Chinese horoscope is deeply rooted in culture, and each new year is given a symbolic animal to represent its fortune. This coming year is associated with the water rabbit, which is a sign of longevity, peace, prosperity, and hope. 


Click Here to download a Year of the Rabbit coloring page!


With that said, you can incorporate the rabbit into various Chinese New Year decorations. Some decoration ideas include making homemade lanterns, handing out red envelopes, or creating a colorful dragon to parade around your living room!

But why stop learning about Chinese culture and tradition at Chinese New Year? The best part about seasonal holidays is that you can use them as a jumping-off point for learning about broader topics. 

Our Great Empires Activity Study delves into China as a whole, a few of its dynasties, the Great Wall, and so much more!  

How Will You Bring in the New Year?

The Chinese New Year is filled with abundant history and tradition, so why not take a break from your regular studies and learn about it? Your kiddos are bound to have a blast, plus it may spark their interest in learning more about ancient cultures from around the world. 

Looking for more studies to help teach your kids about holidays like Christmas, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and more? Then check out our History of Holidays Activity Study!

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