CRAFTY IDEAS FOR CHINESE NEW YEAR

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Unlike our New Year festivities, the Chinese version is a movable celebration - and this year falls on February 16.

It's one of the most colourful events in the calendar when people take to the streets, both in China and across the globe, ringing bells, lighting firecrackers and watching traditional lion dances in an explosion of light and sound.

Chinese families gather together for a reunion dinner on New Year's Eve and clean their houses to sweep away bad fortune on New Year's Day.

While there are plenty of storybooks about Chinese culture and new year suitable for Early Years children, it might be nice to share the Chinese Zodiac story.

Chinese Zodiac Story

Legend has it that, back in the ancient days, the Jade Emperor ordered that animals would become part of the calendar - with the 12 who arrived first selected.

At the time, the cat and the rat were good friends. When they heard the news, the cat said to the rat that they should arrive early to sign up...but that he usually got up late.

So the rat promised to wake up his friend so they could go together but, because he was so excited, forgot and went alone.

On the way, the rat bumped into the tiger, ox, horse and other animals who were all much faster than him.

He hatched a plan and convinced the ox to carry him on his back - on the condition that the rat sang throughout the journey.

The ox arrived first, but the rat sneaked in front of him and became the first lucky animal.

By the time the cat arrived, the selection was over - which is why the cat now hates the rat and will always try to chase him.

Crafty ideas

Traditionally, children are given red envelopes stuffed with 'lucky money' on New Year's Day and oranges and tangerines are handed out as the Chinese words for these sound like luck and wealth.

So, I thought it would be appropriate to suggest the following two simple crafts you might like to try in your Early Years setting.

Lucky Oranges

You'll need an orange or tangerine for each child, large sheets of red tissue paper, green cardstock, leaf-shaped stencil, ribbon, scissors and a hole punch.

Ask the children to wrap their orange in the red tissue paper and help them tie a ribbon around the top. Draw around the leaf stencil onto the green card which the children can cut out. Punch a hole in the top of each leaf and string onto the ribbon and tie securely. You might want to write Happy New Year on the leaf.

Little ones can give their lucky gift to friends or family.

Red Envelopes

You'll either need red envelopes - which you can buy online - or make your own using a template and red cardstock or construction paper, gold paint and chocolate coins.

If you're making your own, help the children to cut, fold and glue the red card or paper to form the envelopes. Use gold paint to decorate the envelope - maybe suggest the children try to copy a traditional Chinese symbol.

When the paint is dry the children can pop a few chocolate coins into the envelope - an even number is luckier than odd.