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CHINESE NEW YEAR

Like most of the world the Chinese celebrate the new Year. Here in America we celebrate the New Year on the 31st of December and the first of January. Our celebration of the New Year lasts only the night of the 31st and the morning of the 1st, during which time we invite friends over for parties; go to dances; watch the ball lowering in times square; make a lot of noise; and other such related activities to issue in the New Year.

The Chinese, in China, and throughout the world, celebrate the New Year according to a different calandar. The calendar that the Chinese use to determine the new year is based on the lunar calendar as well as the Gregorian calendar. It is also based on the changes of nature in the spring. There are few people left who can determine the actual day the New Year begins, as it is such an involved process. This year it started on Feb. 19, but starts on a different date each year. In order to better understand the Chinese New Year we should look at its origin.

(1)The origin of the Chinese New Year is too old to trace; but the tales about it are quite interesting. Legend has it that there was a beast called Nian (which means "year" in Chinese) that would come to China the night before the new year began (according to the Chinese Calendar) and prey upon the people. One of the legends has it that Nian had a very big mouth and that he would swallow a great many people with every bite.

One day an old man came to the rescue of the peoeple, he said to Nian, "I hear that you are a very capable beast, but do you think that you could swallow the other beasts of prey instead of people, who are not worthy opponents?" So Nian started to swallow he other beast which were harrassing the people anyway. After that the man dissapeared riding Nian, it turns out that the man was really an imortal god.

The old man told the people to put up red decorations on their windows and doors at each year's end to scare away Nian in case he came back. Nian lived in fear of the color red. The people celebrate the New Year by putting up red paper and lighting fire- crackers to scare away Nian. They say the words "Guo Nian" which mean both, "Survive the Nian" and "Celebrate the year." The word "guo" in chinese means both observe, and pass-over.

Another tradition of the Chinese people is to wear bright costumes to attract the god of the universe who is supposed to come back at the begining of the New Year.

(2) The climax of the Chinese New Year lasts only five days including New Year's Eve, but the New Year season is one month long. During the New Year Celebreation there is a lot of business and traveling conducted by the Chinese.

There is a lot to the celebration of theChinese New Year. The people start to prepare themselves for the five-day New Year celebration a month in advance. At the end of the five-day celebration the people start again to prepare for the lantern festival, which takes place about ten days later. The holiday of teh New Year lasts about one month.

The five-day celebration is the most important part of the Chinese celebration. The people will do no cooking, except reheating, during these five days, andheeh shops will be closed. During the month before the celebration takes place chicken, fish, and pork are dried; eggs are preserved, and vegetables are pickled. All food preperation is done in order to be ready for the many guests who will be comming.

On the first day of the five-day celebration, the day of New Year's Eve the people visit family and friends and bid farewell to the old year. Between 9:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. "incense is lit and oplaced on a table that has been arranged to meet the spirits who will decend to earth" (Hou-Tien). After 11:00 offerings are made to the gods. "The gods are asked to bring peace and prosperity." The people then have a great feast as the festivities of the New Year sound on the streets throughout the night.

(3) On New Year's Day the people all dress in new clothes and spend the day with their families. They exchange gifts; some of these gifts are gifts of money wrapped in red and gold paper. This money is to be spent throughout the holiday. Food is kept warm all day for visiting family. The tradition is to eat dumpling soup; whoever bites into the dumpling with the surprise in it is supposed to have good luck throughout the year.

The second day of the New Year is for visiting family. Money trees are put out as a sign of prosoperity.

(4) The third day of the festival is marked with fire-crackers and the Dragon Dance. This is also the day for the begining of the Lion Dance, which lasts through the fifth day.

The fourth day is a day for people, even strangers to drop in and visit wherever they like.

The fifth day of the New Year is for visiting family who are far away, a day of travel and reunion. On this day all of the shops re-open and teh people can cook again.

The Lantern Festival begins about ten days later, with the first full moon of the New Year, this lasts three days. During thse three days decorated lanterns are hung, the people wear white in honor of the moon and moon cakes are eaten.

The Lantern Festival, comes from the time when the Chinese People would go in search of spirits with burning sticks. They thought that the spirits could be seen during a full moon.


Works Cited

(2) Cheng Hou-Tien. The Chinese New Year. (New York: Holt Rinehart and Winston, 1976).

(1) Haiwany Yuan. "Origing of the Chinese New Year"

(3) Kate Walters and Madeline Slovenz-Low. Lion Dancer. (New York: Schoolastic, 1990).

(4) Yen Liang. Happy New Year. (California: Bowmar, 1961).


Time Allotment:

This unit should take 3-5 days plus homework.

Objectives:

1. Students will recognize that the Chinese New Year, and its celebration are unique and valid.

2. Students will recognize that holidays originate from a variety of different backgrounds, legends or traditions.

3. Students will recognize that the traditions and values in the clelbration of the Chinese New Year are unique and valid.

4. Students will recognize that legends are a way of explaining our perception of the world in which we live.

Procedures:

A: Brainstorm. Ask students to think of all the things that they do to celebrate the New Year. Have them share, in groups of four, what they do to celebrate. Invite each group to share their ideas with the class. Write these ideas on the board.

B: Mini-Lecture. Explain to the students that all people celebrate the New Year differently. Briefly describe to the children the customs of the Chinese New YEar, and when it takes place (sometime between Jan. 21 and Feb. 19). After the information is shared with the children check for understanding with review questions. Ask the children to draw, or write about something that they remember from the lecture.

C. Mini-Lecture. Share the informantion about the origins of the Chinese New Year with the children. The legend of Nian and the legend of the torches being lit on the night of the full moon to find spirits are found in the reading. In pairs, have the children respond to the discussion. What did you learn about the legends behind Chinese New Year? Have each pair share with the rest of the class.

D. Concept Development. Review the information of the legends briefly. Define the concept of a legend (the story of how people think things came to be). Ask the sudents to give examples of legends that they have heard. Discuss what kinds of stories are and are not legends. This would be a good place to read legends to the children of many things, if desired.

E. Research. Have the children go to the library and each of them try to find a book that is a legentd. Have them take the book home and read it with an adult. Have them ask the adult about other legends that they have heard. If they do not have an adult to discuss this with they can ask the teacher.

F. Writing. Have the children take time to write their own legends about why they celebrate the New Year in the way that they do. After the legends have been written, give the children time to share their legends with the rest of the class. Discuss with them the similarities and differences in the legends that they wrote, showing that all people see things in a different manner.

G. Hands-on. Rievew the legend of the Lantern Festival with the children. Have them pretend that tehy are going to go looking for spirits on the night of the full moon. Have them decorate their lantern paper in a way that they think would be likely to attract those spirits for whom they are looking. After they have decorated the paper show them how to forld and cut the paper to make a "Chinese Lantern". (See apendix for instructions). These lanterns will be hung from the ceiling of the classroom for display. Let the children share their work with others.

H. Open discussion. After all the activities have been completed, have the children respond to the following question, "What do you know about the Chinese New Year?"

Assessment:

1. The writing assignments will be assessed to see if the children understand the concept of legends.

2. The drawings will be assessed for understanding of what the Chinese New Year is about. See if the children are able to incorporate at least three things that they have learned from the lecture.

3. Research will be evaluated to see if the children understand legends; a large part of understanding holidays.

4. Discussion response will be evaluated to see if children understand that differences in celebrations by different peoples are valid and acceptable. The sharing of the legends by the children is an especially valid measure at this point.


Dear Parents,

We are working on a unit that involves the Chinese New Year as a celebration. As part of this unit we are discussing the legends associated with the Chinese New Year. We have discussed as a class what legends are and how they are used, further we have gone to the library and each of the students has chosen a book that is a legend. What we would like you to do with your child is read the book to them. After you have done this we would appreciate it if you could share another legend with your child. We will be talking about thise legends in class on ______ date.

Thank you for your help,

Mr/Mrs


Instructions for making a paper lantern

1. Take a square piece of paper.

2. Decorate it in any way desired.

3. Fold diagonally once to create a triangle.

4. Fold diagonally again forming a smaller triangle.

5. Fold diagonally again forming an even smaller traingle. (The paper should have been folded in half diagonally 3 times.)

6. With folded ege on left, make a cut 1/4 inch from bottom cutting to within 1/4 inch of diagonal edge.

7. Turn so diagonal edge is on left, repeat cut 1/4 inch from last cut to within 1/4 inch of straight edge.

8. Repeat cuts in this manner until you reach the top.

9. Unfold.

10. Hang.

 

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