How to Celebrate Chinese New Year With Your Kids

One of the most amazing things about Canada is our multiculturalism. The diversity of the people who live in our country gives us the opportunity to explore, discover, and participate in celebrations from many different cultures and peoples – like Chinese New Year.

Image of an Asian dragon face with text reading "How to Celebrate Chinese New Year With Your Kids" beneath

What and When is Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is typically celebrated somewhere in late January or in February. The date varies since it is based on the Chinese traditional calendar and not the Western calendar system we are used to today. Chinese New Year is on January 22, 2023.

It’s also known as the Spring Festival. Although it’s only marked on the calendar by a single day, the whole celebratation takes place over several days. During this event, families clean and decorate their homes, honour their ancestors, and enjoy time with their families.

There are lots of traditions related to good luck – such as hanging up signs on door ways that read “luck” and not sweeping on New Year’s Day to avoid sweeping away wealth. Red is the colour most commonly used in decorations, clothing, and celebrations for this holiday because it symbolizes prosperity. Red envelopes of money are traditionally given as gifts to children to ward off evil spirits and to bring them good luck as well.

Some common activities during Chinese New Year include visiting graves of ancestors, wearing new clothes, having a big family meal together, setting off fireworks, and giving of gifts.

About 2 weeks later, the celebrations end with the Lantern Festival, where lanterns are lit, dragons dance, and there are more fireworks.

2023: The Year of the Rabbit

Each year has an animal from the Chinese zodiac associated with it. There are twelve animals on the zodiac: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. The characteristics of these animals define the expectations for the year.

2023 is the year of the Water Rabbit – a year of hope.

How to Celebrate Chinese New Year

Visit Chinatown

Here in Canada, we have several different Chinatowns that you can visit throughout the celebrations. If you live near Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Regina, Victoria, or Winnipeg, check to see if there are any special events and demonstrations planned such as dragon dances and fireworks. Eat in an authentic Asian restaurant to try traditional foods. Shop for gifts in the local stores. If you don’t live in a city with a Chinatown, see if there is a Chinese Culture Centre near you.

Here are some planned events

Make Crafts

Common Chinese New Year theme crafts include making lanterns and variations of dragons. Here are a few for you to try:

Read Some Books About Chinese New Year

This section contains affilate links.

Bringing in the New Year Book Cover

Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin

This exuberant story follows a Chinese American family as they prepare for the Lunar New Year. Each member of the family lends a hand as they sweep out the dust of the old year, hang decorations, and make dumplings. Then it’s time to put on new clothes and celebrate with family and friends. There will be fireworks and lion dancers, shining lanterns, and a great, long dragon parade to help bring in the Lunar New Year. And the dragon parade in our book is extra long–on a surprise fold-out page at the end of the story. Grace Lin’s artwork is a bright and gloriously patterned celebration in itself! And her story is tailor-made for reading aloud.

Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas Book Cover

Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas by Natasha Yim

A favorite fairy tale set in a bustling contemporary Chinatown.

It’s Chinese New Year, and Goldy Luck’s mother wants her to take a plate of turnip cakes to the neighbors. The Chans aren’t home, but that doesn’t stop Goldy from trying out their rice porridge, their chairs, and their beds—with disastrous results.

In this funny and festive retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Natasha Yim and Grace Zong introduce a plucky heroine who takes responsibility for her actions and makes a new friend (and a whole plate of turnip cakes!), just in time for Chinese New Year.

Includes back matter about Chinese New Year and a recipe for turnip cakes.

The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac Book Cover

The Great Race by Ling & Eric Lee

The Jade Emperor has invited all the animals of the kingdom for The Great Race. Which 12 animals will cross the river first and become a part of the Chinese Zodiac? Teach young readers Chinese through this retelling of a classic Chinese legend passed through the generations. Follow along in Traditional Chinese, Pinyin, and English. Children, parents, and teachers will enjoy the beautiful, immersive illustrations and dynamic story. A free audio reading in Mandarin is included to help with pronunciation.

Watch a Dragon Dance and Lion Dance

If you don’t live near a live celebration, there are several options to watching a dragon or lion dance online. Some even stream live.

Learn to Say Happy New Year

There are two different common phrases to say Happy New Year. First, in Mandarin:

And in Cantonese:

Try Traditional Foods

On Chinese New Years Day, families gather together and eat a feast together. Many of the foods are intentionally eaten to encourage luck, longevity, and prosperity.

This website has a fantastic list of foods commonly included in the Spring Festival family meal.

Recipes

Hopefully some of these ideas help you celebrate Chinese New Year with your family.

If you are looking for more special days in Canada to celebrate, check out this list.

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