Chinese New Year (CNY) is the most important holiday in China, imagine Christmas, Easter, and New Year all rolled into one. Understanding the meaning of this festival is important to people who learn Mandarin Chinese. We have talked about this before. But do you know what does this holiday mean to children in China? They have a holiday that over lasts a month!
New Years is a holiday steeped in tradition, with each day having its own specific meaning and rituals, but at the heart of it is the concept of family.
Because of this, CNY also spells the start of mass winter migrations leaving cities empty as workers return to their hometowns. This time is especially precious for children as they get a much-welcomed break from schoolwork and get to enjoy a week filled with fun and food. Because children are young there are some festivities they won’t take part in. Also, different provinces and towns will have their own traditions, but here is how most families and children celebrate Chinese New Years.
I think this is the most exciting part of Chinese New Years for most people. Children are handed money in red envelopes as New Year’s gift. The red envelopes are often decorated with Chinese characters, the Zodiac animal (this year it’s the dog) or they can be plain red. Recently, with the increasing use of Wechat for those that live far away from family, they may receive Wechat red packets during New Years. It can be turned into a fun craft activity having children create their own red envelope.
One of the five iconic inventions accredited to China, it’s not a celebration if fireworks are not involved. Health and safety don’t stop children from taking part in setting off fireworks and playing with sparklers, notably outside windows to scare the bad spirits away with the loud noises. Fireworks scare the bad and usher in the new year with their loud noise and bright lights.
A well-loved New Years sight is the dragon dance. These are often seen at the temple fayres. Temples and parks across the city will have lots of food, games, rides, and shows available for families to enjoy. The dragon dance is normally the highlight of the shows. Students may also take part in their own dragon dances at school, or even create their own dragon dance by making their own dragon puppet.
Since New Years means “out with the old in with the new”, it involves cleaning the house, wearing new clothes and decorating the house. I’m sure most children would be happy about shopping for new clothes and decorations but not so much about the cleaning! Chinese New Years decorations are not as extravagant as Christmas decorations. They normally tend to involve paper lanterns or paper cutouts that children can make themselves.
Remember the most important thing about Chinese New Years is spending time with family, the most important day of Chinese New Years is spent watching the CNY gala and eating a feast made up of beautifully-cooked Chinese food such as dumplings, a favorite CNY dish.