A couple of week ago we were reminded that January 27th was the Chinese New Year… and then a couple of days later I ran into my Korean friend who asked me if I was preparing anything for the New Year…
I was not raised celebrating my Korean heritage or culture. I have a vague understanding and my only memories of these holidays are in a few pictures where I am dressed up in my hanbok surrounded by my mother’s family. I figured that this was a great opportunity to explore with the kids!
On Monday I wrote up a list of activities and links to explore;
Look up traditions for the Lunar New Year Festival
- Check out “Chinese New Year” and “Korean New Year” on Youtube
- China Highlights‘ website walks you through the activities for the day and what gifts or foods are considered lucky.
- Haiwang Yuan‘s explanation of the Chinese New Year
- Korean Culture Blog shares How Koreans celebrate the New Year Seollal
Look up what your zodiac sign is
We had a lot of fun figuring this out and seeing how close it comes to explaining each of our personalities!
- China Highlights’ has a great Zodiac calculator. Once you figure out what your animal is, click on the animal icon and find out which element you are.
- Discuss the importance of the lunar zodiac and how impacts the lives who live by it.
Think about what makes the Chinese New Year different than the January 1st New Year
- You might come to a different conclusion than what we did, but after comparing notes we decided that January 1st should be a low key event at home with more of our focus on festivities for the Lunar New Year.
- What’s the difference between the Chinese and the Korean New Year? I’m glad you asked because BringingUpTheParks has the answer!
- Pop quiz. Do the Japanese celebrate a January 1st New Year or the Lunar New Year?
Find a book about the Chinese or Korean New Year that interests you
I personally was interested in cookbooks to help me figure what dishes to make for this weekend!
- Low-fat No-fat Chinese Cooking
- Maangchi’s Real Korean Cooking
- Kimchi Chronicles
- Korean Food Made Simple
This is not one I was able to find so it’s in my wishlist;
- Encyclopedia of Korean Seasonal Customs: Encyclopedia of Korean Folklore and Traditional Culture Vol. 1;
Here are a couple of books the kids enjoyed from our local library;
- Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas
- Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew: Enter the Dragon Mystery
- American Girl: Happy New Year, Julie 1974
*Recent comments led me to this video of a reading by Levar Burton -enjoy!
Write a New Year Story or draw about something you learned
We are doing this with the kids on New Year’s day.
- via Teacher Scholastic
- OR Ancient China
- The China Highlights is a travel agency you can book tours with. I don’t have a personal experience with them but their website is highly encouraging!
Try new foods
- Crazy Korean Cooking shares more on the special foods for this day, with links to recipes!
- Serious Eats has several articles. This one is 16 Appetizers to Bring in the Chinese New Year and includes recipes to a couple of dishes you might be familiar with!
Plan a Party!
All this food and Learning about the different cultures prompted us to make the Lunar New Year a special holiday for us.
We learned that this is not only a time reserved to celebrate family and the start of the year with best wishes, but it’s like a birthday party… one where everybody celebrates each other! Who doesn’t love a birthday party?
Here are a few things we came up with for our new tradition based on what we learned;
- A day or two before the festivities begin, do a through cleaning and take a bath or shower. Traditions says cleaning during the first few days will sweep away your luck!
- Start the New Year without junk. This is probably why I feel the need to purge my home of unwanted items around this time each year!
- Prepare foods ahead of time for the week.
- Both cultures hang up a door banner of sorts. Some Koreans place it over the doorway and then invite guests to write their wish for the new year and then hang it on the door banner.
- The Chinese use dragons, zodiac animals, red lanterns, and fire crackers to decorate. The Koreans use cranes, magpies, kites, and colorful lights.
- Both cultures like to incorporate things that symbolize wealth, long life, and luck. An orange is considered lucky because of it’s color! An eggroll or potsticker symbolizes prosperity because it was shaped to look like the money for that region. It’s lucky to eat as many of these that you can! Potsticker eating contest, anyone?
- The Chinese give red envelopes with an even amount to someone who is their junior in the family or in the workplace. Koreans have a ceremony where the children request blessing from their elders. The money they receive in the ceremony is placed in a good luck bag.
- It’s a time to get new clothes, spend time with family, and give gifts… when in doubt give gifts that the recipient can use towards their health or to help their year be more prosperous/lucky.
- It’s also a time to reconnect with family members near and far. Make travel plans or setup video chat dates.
I must confess finding materials to decorate and the right ingredients to cook with has been a challenge. I think these things are still helpful to keep in mind for next year’s decorations and gifts. In the meantime we are not going to stress out about it. Since the Chinese New Years is Jan 27th and the Korean New Years is Jan 28th, we will have potstickers and an Asian theme finger food party the first night and Korean dishes the second night.
Happy New Year!
May your New Year be a bright and happy one!