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Chinese New Year Resources & Activities

Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, is a traditional holiday celebrated in communities around the globe.

People travel long distances to reunite with family and participate in traditions before, during, and after the New Year.

traditions associated with Chinese New Year

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Chinese New Year Date

The date for the festival changes every year because it is based on the Chinese lunar calendar (using the moon’s phases).

Chinese New Year, the first day of the first lunar month, usually falls somewhere between the middle of January and the middle of February.

Chinese New Year Zodiac Animals

A cycle of 12 animal signs is associated with each Chinese calendar year. Each new year starts a new animal’s zodiac year.

The animals, in order, are rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.

2021       February 12      Ox

2022       February 1       Tiger

2023       January 22      Rabbit

2024       February 10     Dragon

2025       January 29       Snake

Several books and videos retell the legendary race that led to the 12 signs.

The Great Race

Read-Aloud Video

The Race for the Chinese Zodiac

Add story sticks and a printable zodiac fan to engage students during the story and to aid students while retelling the tale after reading.

Chinese New Year Activities

Chinese New Year Traditions

Preparations begin days before. People get ready to welcome the new year by thoroughly cleaning their homes – sweeping out the old and getting ready for the new – and buying new clothes. Houses are decorated with red lanterns, couplets, and paper cutouts.

Children receive red envelopes with lucky money that they can spend how they choose. The amount is usually an even number and cannot be divided by four. (The number 4 sounds like “death” in Chinese and is considered bad luck.)

Chinese New Year Lucky Money Envelope (1)

The bills are new and crisp, and no coins are included. Red envelopes should always be received with both hands and not opened in front of the person who gives the envelope.

Make Your Own! Chalk Academy offers FREE printable red envelopes in simplified and traditional Chinese.

Fun Fact: Red is a popular color for the celebration. In Chinese culture, it is the symbol of happiness, wealth, and good fortune. Red attracts good luck and dispels evil spirits.

The reunion dinner on New Year’s Eve is an important time to gather with family and is considered the most important meal of the year.

Foods with lucky meanings are included, such as dumplings, sticky rice cakes, spring rolls, and fish.

After the feast, it is common to watch the Spring Festival Gala on TV and set off fireworks to bring in the new year.

Traditional Chinese dances, such as the lion dance and dragon dance, are performed during the Spring Festival and are believed to bring good luck.

Lion dances are performed by two dancers, and the dragon dances are performed by a group of acrobatic dancers.

Enjoy this video filmed by Matt Love at Shanghai’s Spring Festival in 2011.

Chinese people believe their luck for the coming year is based on what they do on the first day of the lunar year. New clothes are worn, and wishes of good luck and happiness are shared.

On the fifteenth day of the new year, the Lantern Festival marks the traditional end of the Chinese New Year celebration. People release glowing lanterns into the sky or set them afloat on rivers or lakes.

The Dragon symbolizes power, nobility, honor, luck, and success in Chinese culture. Learn more about the Year of the Dragon (2024) from China Highlights.

Related Links

  • Visit our China profile for a detailed map, country infographic, informational video, detailed map, recommended books, and interactive activities.
  • Explore China’s geography and culture with our Country Research Project. Young explorers are guided through the research process to create a final presentation.
  • Read Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story From China (believed to be the original version). Use our Literature Response Task Cards to engage kids in various activities.
  • Discover China’s Mid-Autumn Festival – also known as the Moon Festival.
  • Read Lin Yi’s Lantern: A Moon Festival Tale. Print our FREE teaching resources with a focus on analyzing character traits.
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