It is almost the Lunar New Year, which means we have been busy making good luck decorations for our home to welcome the new year. One of the most popular Lunar New Year decorations is hanging good luck characters, nianhua, as well as spring couplets, chun lian, good wishes for the new year on doors and door frames.
The Lunar New Year starts on the second new moon after the Winter Solstice and is a fifteen day celebration ending with the Lantern Festival (this year’s and next year’s dates). When I was a children’s librarian, I learned a great deal from my storytime patrons about Chinese festivals and the Lunar Calendar, especially during the time of the Lunar New Year (also known as Chinese New Year), the most celebrated and sensational of the holidays. We’ve enjoyed learning about these holidays, stories, and traditions over the years so much that we honor and celebrate them in our home. If you’re interested in more books and crafts, take a look at my past Chinese New Year Storytimes HERE and HERE.
Chinese New Year Good Luck Characters
This craft is a modification of an activity found in the book Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats: A Treasury of Chinese Holiday Tales, Activities & Recipes. Good luck characters written in the finest calligraphy on red diamonds are hung on doors in preparation for the new year. Often times special red paper with gold flecks is used. We made these last year and this year, so you will see a bit of a difference between the two.
First, depending on the size of your paper, with a ruler and pencil you’re going to want to measure an 8″ or 9” square and cut off the excess paper. Once you’ve cut out your red diamonds, splatter gold flecks onto your paper by flicking gold water color paint or gold tempera paint. We made gold flecks by coating the tip of a small paint brush with gold watercolor paint and lightly hitting the brush on a pointer finger close to the paper. You can also make small dots and dabs with your paintbrush. Whatever creative process works for your child.
Once the gold paint has dried, it’s time to paint the Chinese characters on. On these types of Lunar New Year decorations, the Chinese characters used symbolize good fortune, spring, good luck, or the the featured animal zodiac character of the new year. Perhaps the most popular character is the Fú and when hung upside down it means good luck is coming. This is an excellent template for painting the Fú character, and this site has more character examples, or try painting the animal zodiac symbol of the new year.
Can you see the difference between the past couple years we’ve been making these characters? There’s a terrific scene from a Mister Rogers Neighborhood episode (episode 1704) where he visits with a Chinese calligrapher. Mister Rogers does a wonderful job introducing this art to children and watching it is a good foundation for this particular activity. If you’re interested in showing this episode, it can be accessed via Amazon Prime. Another complementary activity to learning about Chinese calligraphy is reading The Dinner That Cooked Itself by J.C. Hsyu, illustrated by Kenard Pak, a beautifully illustrated Chinese fairy tale with notes about Chinese characters at the end of the book.
Spring Couplets are special new year poems that carry good wishes for the new year. They have the same amount of characters on each side and are painted on long banners that hang from each side of a doorway. We also make a “Happy New Year” (新年快樂) greeting that goes on the top of the door between the two couplets.
Start by cutting your large piece of red paper or poster board into two long strips that are equal length. Once you’ve cut your strips of paper, it’s to time to paint the characters on the banners. Examples of spring couplets can be found here and here or find one online that suits your wishes for the new year.
When the paint has dried, your banners are ready to be hung! Or add further decorations by outlining the characters in gold or drawing pictures or details in gold marker on the banner! Happy New Year!
Painted Lanterns for the Lantern Festival
On the 15th day of the Lunar New Year the celebration ends with the Lantern Festival. Celebrate by making hand painted lanterns! We made the lanterns pictured last autumn and they’ve recently been revived from storage as decorations for the Lunar New Year and the Lantern Festival. Here’s how you can to make your own.
Books to Read for Chinese New Year
Here’s a short list of favorite books about the the Chinese New Year kids will enjoy reading during this festive time of year:
Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats: A Treasury of Chinese Holiday Tales, Activities & Recipes by Nina Simonds, Leslie Swartz, illustrated by Meilo So
Bringing In the New Year by Grace Lin
Dragon Dance: A Chinese New Year Lift-the-Flap Book (Lift-the-Flap, Puffin) by Joan Holub
Dragon Dancing by Pierr Morgan, illustrated by Carole Lexa Schaefer
Long-Long’s New Year: A Story About the Chinese Spring Festival by Catherine Gower, illustrated by He Zhihong
Hiss! Pop! Boom!: Celebrating Chinese New Year by Tricia Morissey, illustrated by Kong Lee
Lion Dancer: Ernie Wan’s Chinese New Year (Reading Rainbow Books) by Kate Waters
Great Race by Dawn Casey, illustrated by Anne Wilson
A New Year’s Reunion by Yu Li-Quiong
Chinese and English Nursery Rhymes: Share and Sing in Two Languages [Audio CD Included] by Faye-Lynn Wu, illustrated by Kieren Dutcher
Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Chinese New Year: With Fireworks, Dragons, and Lanterns by Carolyn Otto
This January was one of highs and lows– A moody month of balmy sunshine and bitter cold. I don’t mind the cold, but the the warm sun-rays were refreshing especially after being cooped up in the house with sickness. The girls, Will, and I were up in bed for some reason or another throughout the month. When we were able to get outside, hikes were muddy which is always squishy good fun for the kids. A stiff chill would pull the ground taught and then it would melt and give away again leaving the earth soft and elastic. Our stepping ground went back and forth like a rubber-band all month. Kansas Day closed out January and you could have sworn the blue skies and wind and birds and beasts knew because the winter bleached prairie looked outstandingly golden. Below are captions from our nature outings and explorations in January:
1. A good day
2. January shadows
3. birds of a feather
4. determined gatherer
5. nest construction in-progress
6. Jack Frost’s paintbrush
7. “Keepers of the Universe”
8. Waxing and Waning
9. Kansas bestiary
10. Tow-colored strands
Happy Kansas Day!
Kansas became a state on January 29, 1861 and each year its birthday is celebrated throughout the state. Many museums, libraries, and historic sites offer programs and events on this holiday, but there are also simple ways to observe the day with kids regardless of where you are. Here are a few fun ideas for celebrating Kansas Day:
Read a book about wildlife in Kansas
Check out a book about Kansas from your library or local bookstore! These books for younger readers featuring the flora and fauna of Kansas prairies are a few favorites to read on Kansas Day:
Out on the Prairie by Donna M. Batemen, illustrated by Susan Swan
Prairie Chicken Little by Jackie Mims Hopkins, illustrated by Henry Cole
A Tallgrass Prairie Alphabet by Claudia McGehee
Plant a Pocket of Prairie by Phyllis Root, illustrated by Betsy Bowen
Another idea is to read a book from the Kansas State Library’s Kansas Notable Books list, which includes children’s books by Kansas authors or books that take place in the state of Kansas.
Make a Kansas Flag
The Kansas flag has many symbols that represent the history of the state. With whatever materials you have on hand, make your very own Kansas flag to show your Kansas pride. The art project above made by my kiddo was created using tempera paint and watercolor paper, but another option is to use this free template of the Kansas flag symbols and color and paste them to a piece of blue paper.
Sing “Home on the Range”
“Home on the Range” is the state song of Kansas, but before it became a song it was origanlly a poem written by Kansan Dr. Brewster Higley. The official state song lyrics and a bit about the history of this song can be found here.
Listen to a Western Meadowlark
The Western Meadowlark is the state bird of Kansas and it’s a cheerful, distinct song that is heard throughout the state. Listen to the clip. Perhaps you’ve heard this song before? If you listen while on a walk, perhaps you’ll be able to spot one! To learn about what food attracts this type of bird to your home, listen to more songs clips, view pictures, and learn more about the Western Meadowlark visit The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Enjoy free activities from the Kansas Historical Society
Print out and make one of the many free activities available on the Kansas Historical Society’ website. There is also a free book, Today is Kansas Day!, that can be printed out or read online and a bunch of as well informational Read Kansas! lessons like this one about the symbols of Kansas. Plus, um… How hilarious is this coloring sheet of the famous John Brown portrait, “Tragic Prelude”?
Bake a birthday cake!
One of the main agricultural crops of Kansas agriculture is wheat, which is why Kansas is often called “The Wheat State”. While making the cake, you can share with our child that wheat is ground into the flour and used to bake breads and make cake with. Get fancy and bake something like this or make a simple banana bread. Whatever the flavor, make it a celebration and add a candle or two on top, sing “Happy Birthday” to Kansas, and blow out the candles.
Congratulations Kansas, another trip around the sun!
I’m over at Library as Incubator Project celebrating the 2016 Newbery winner and Caldecott and Coretta Scott King honoree, Last Stop on Market Street (public library | local bookstore) by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson. Learn how to make this delightful 3-D bus craft just like the one CJ and Nana ride in the book HERE.
There’s something eerie and otherworldly about walking in the woods in the wintertime. It is quiet, yet holds many secrets… Maybe even a bit of magic. The Tea Party in the Woods by Akiko Miyakoshi (public library | local bookstore) embodies this feeling perfectly. A young girl, Kikko, sets out to deliver a pie her father had forgotten to her grandmother’s house. Trying as quickly as she could to catch up to her father, she trips in the snow, ruining the pie. Kikko gets up and hurries after him nonetheless only to find that she ends up at an unfamiliar house where she learns she wasn’t following her father after all.
There it is. This image. How terrific is the mood in this illustration? That point when things are absolutely not what they seem? Kikko walks into an enchanting tea party welcomed by a guest list of animals of all shapes and sizes. Feeling nervous and excited, she explains to the animals that she was taking a pie to her grandmother’s but the pie was ruined on the way. The animals encouraged her to take an assortment of the pies they had at the party to replace the ruined pie.
The Tea Party in the Woods is quiet and striking full of whimsy and wonder. The sequence of full-page spreads and bright yellow and red focal points in this visually appealing for beginning and early readers to draw conclusions about the story without reading the text. Kikko’s story is a delight and prompted a simple paper craft project and many hours of pretend play…
PIE ART PROJECT
If you’ll scroll up to the illustration of the animals preparing a plate of assorted pies for Kikko, that scene was what inspired this simple pie art project. “Each piece had a different filling of seeds and nuts and fruit and other delicious things gathered from the woods,” is the description of the pies in the story. I thought about collecting materials found outdoors to be used for this project as a nature-y mixed-media creation, but my daughter wanted the pie pieces to look like the pies she likes to eat. Not like dead grass. Fair enough! Here’s how she made her paper pie collage…
PIE ART MATERIALS
- Pie Plate
- Variety of Colored Paper or Cardstock
- Glue Stick
- [Optional Embellishments (sequins, pom poms, etc.)]
You could also use a paper plate as the crust of your pie, but we chose different colors of cardstock we had on hand.
Place your pie plate in the middle of a piece of paper and trace around the bottom of the plate with a pencil.
Using another piece of paper as a makeshift ruler, divide the circle into sections. If you’d like, this is a good opportunity to talk about basic division and fractions with your child. Sneaky math! It’s everywhere! Once you’ve divided the pie up, cut out the pie along using penciled lines as your guide.
Snip snip snip. After the pie crust was cut out, kids can decorate with paper to their own imagination and/or flavor preference. Perhaps a piece of Peppermint Plum? Or Ginger Pumpkin? Maybe some Pistachio Crunch? Triple Cartwheel Peanut Butter Surprise? Whatever the flavor! Now, you can stop here OR you can add some optional additional embellishments of your choosing. We had some sequins and pom-poms out already and those were readily applied to the pie.
Good enough to eat! Am I right? Art baked goodness just in time for a winter tea party of your very own.
PRETEND PLAY TEA PARTY
As in any situation where pie is involved, you obviously have to throw a party for the pie to be enjoyed among friends. Over the past few weeks there have been a many tea parties indoors where friends from all over the house are invited to enjoy the festivities and freshly baked pie. Awhile back I purchased a few tea cups, mugs, and saucers from Goodwill that have been put to good use ever since we brought them home.
Roar-y the Tiger couldn’t help himself and had to have seconds. The hostess was of the mostess and everyone was very well mannered and had a jolly old time.
And I had to share a picture of this friendly cat and dog guest duo, which were made from leftover pie scraps and other odds and ends from around the house. Glad these last minute guests could make it just in time for tea!
Don’t you love when a book sparks imagination?
**Source of book reviewed: Checked out at the local public library.