I do not have any Asian ancestry and very little experience when it comes to Chinese culture, but I do like a good celebration. It must be the French Canadian in me. So I offered to help organize a Chinese New Year celebration for our learning circle. I continue to be amazed by the willingness of our learning community to come together and share their time and talents. I just feel so blessed to be part of this tribe.
For anyone interested in planning a Chinese New Year celebration for a group of children of varying ages, such as a home learning group or a classroom, I will share with you what we did today. I find it helpful to write these things down, since it gives me something to refer to in the future and can be helpful for others hoping to organize something similar.
We started our gathering together with some crafting. The children had the opportunity to make a paper lantern. Our mentor for this activity provided us with a thicker construction paper (poster cardboard), tape and glitter to assemble our lanterns and they turned out quite nice. My daughter is quite proud of hers and has been totting it around the house. Some other fun ideas are dragon mask or a dragon puppet. I think that having some nice colouring pages, like these, would also be nice for children that finish their craft quickly.
Then there was the drums and the dragon. Yes, we had a dragon come and dance to the beat of children drumming. This was really special. The dragon was made for another event that one of our families had participated in and the drums belonged to them as well. I am so grateful to them for sharing these special items with all of us. While this activity might not be feasible for all groups, simpler variations might be possible. Children could make simple drums out of pots and pans and dance with their own handmade paper dragon puppets.
And of course it wouldn’t be Chinese New Years without a feast. Every family brought a Chinese inspired dish to share. There was salmon and chicken, rice, salads and fried bananas and other treats like marbled eggs (dragon eggs). There was white tea and even homemade fortune cookies which were delicious! Rice makes a mess when little children are eating it (especially my children!), just something to be aware of.
To end our time together a special lady dressed in fine clothes told the children a story about Chinese New Year and the children were given the opportunity to try special Chinese treats: black watermelon seed, red watermelon seed, preserved water chestnut, dried tangerine, dried coconut, preserved lotus nut, preserved lotus root and preserved winter melon. These treats each have their own special meaning and are often served during Chinese New Year. The children all left with a little red envelope with a Chinese candy in it, which was something my eldest was very happy about.