Preparing for Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year comes early next year; it is on January 23, 2012.  If you want to do a presentation at your child’s school on Lunar New Year, then now is the time to get it together.

I’ve been collecting stuff from Vietnam and China for use at Lunar New Year for the last couple of years.  In January of 2008, we were in Vietnam right before Tet (Vietnamese Lunar New Year).  The streets were all decorated with lanterns, the Lion Dancers were practicing in the park.  There were shops which sold signs and lanterns and whatever else one needs for Tet.

Although I had attended the Lunar New Year celebration with our adoption agency, I had never been in charge of celebrating Lunar New Year before, so I failed to buy anything in Vietnam for celebrating it at home or in class with my child.

Lion Dancer Marionette Puppet

I wrote this lesson plan for celebrating Lunar New Year with preschoolers.  So this blog post is in addition to that lesson plan. On my Lesson Plan for Preschool Lunar New Year, I have a list of things to buy ahead of time.   The thing that the children liked the best was the Lion Dancer Puppet, which I got at Eden Center in Falls Church, VA (I can’t remember the name of the store). The marionettes are only available at this time a year, so if you want to get one, I would check now or early next year.  The children especially liked feeding goldtone plastic coins to the puppet.   You can get that puppet on Amazon right now, but those goldtone coins are sold out at Oriental Trading Company. But you can get them at Asian Ideas.

Lanterns from Preschool class

When Danny was 2 years old, the teacher made lanterns before I did my Lunar New Year presentation. I thought they were great. When Danny was 3, I asked his teacher for  10 (1 for each student plus 1 extra)  pieces of 11×17 inch red construction paper and cut the lines in it with my guillotine paper cutter, folding the paper in half and leaving 1 inch uncut on the end.  I think most places have the rotary paper cutters now for safety, but this is the paper cutter my family had growing up and it is very fast.  I suppose you could do it with scissors or an Exacto knife too.  I gave the precut paper back to the teacher along with one of the lanterns I had made as a prototype for her.  The students made the lanterns  a couple days ahead of time and then the day I did my presentation, we did a lantern walk, where everyone carried their lantern around the room, just like the last day of the Lunar New Year, where children carry lanterns.

Another thing I needed was the name and exact birth date of each child.  Because Lunar New Year falls on a different day each year, with the birth date of each child, I was able to name the children who had characteristics from one year and those who had characteristics from another year.  I got my information on Wikipedia.  In my son’s class, the children were either born in the year of the pig or the year of the dog.  2012 is the year of the Dragon.

My two favorite books to read to preschoolers remain “Lanterns and Firecrakers” and “Bringing in the New Year“.  My local library doesn’t have a very good selection of picture books on Lunar/ Chinese New Year.  I have since purchased, “Happy Chinese New Year, Kai-Lin!” Our local library does have “My First Chinese New Year“, Karen Katz. I also saw it on the shelves at Barnes and Noble. I like the artwork in Karen Katz’s book, but I still like “Bringing in the New Year” and “Lanterns and Firecrackers” better.

I realized I have a book to help parents teach about Chinese New Year, that somehow got lost in my night table for a couple of years.  It is called “Chinese New Year For Kids“. I guess I purchased it when we adopted Danny and forgot about it. I have not yet used it. I think it is best for older kids, say K – 5.

Puppets: Pig (2007), Dog (2006), Tiger (2010), Rabbit/Cat (2011) and Dragon (2012)

The children really liked the puppets and toys that I brought. I photographed them recently so you can see what I brought.  You can see from my selection, that I bought the years that the children were born in his class and started doing Lunar New Year celebrations in class in 2010, when Danny was 2.

Musical Instruments from Vietnam/China

Here are some musical instruments that I let the children play with. Some were bought in Vietnam, others at Vietnamese Culture Camp, and still others in Chinatown in Vancouver.  The red and white noisemakers are new.  I have used the Chinese noisemakers from Oriental Trading company in the past, but I got the real thing last summer in Vancouver.  Plus I may be giving my lesson plan to 4 different classes and didn’t want to purchase so many noisemakers for all the kids, many of which I don’t even know.  I always let the children keep them from years past, so I don’t have any left over.  I  gave the extras to the occupational therapist at Danny’s  preschool last year.  She thought that they were a fantastic tool for her to use with kids in OT.

Vietnamese Toys

Here are some toys I will show the children.  The creme de la creme is the red snake which moves on a string attached to a stick.  This is so fun for the children.  I let them pet him as I move it around the room.  The other things I picked up at culture camp last summer.  We had the pigs kissing from Vietnam, but it had already broken.  This is my new one.

Lastly I will bring in my conical hat this year.  I brought two back from Vietnam, but I didn’t get a child sized one, even though they were available in Vietnam.  You can buy these on-line here. This company calls them “Coolie Asian Conical Hat”. I thought that was odd, since “Coolie” is a pejorative term for Asians. I did email the company and asked if they knew that Coolie was a racial slur.  They did return my email and said they bought them from a cooperative in Vietnam and that is what that group of

Vietnamese Conical Hat

Vietnamese call them.  Hmmm.  My thought is that they may not speak English that well and some English speaking person told them they are called “Coolie” hats, so that is what they decided to market them as.  I actually wore a “Coolie” hat as a 3 year old growing up in the DC suburbs.  I thought they were called Coolie because they helped keep you cool.  It was only as an adult did I find out the real meaning.  I don’t think my parents knew that it was a racial slur.

I didn’t photograph my Chinese Lanterns, but I got them at Maxims in Rockville, MD.   We hang them up at home in January and then I take them down to bring to class when we do Lunar New Year in class.

In years past, I have gotten $2 bills from the bank and put them in Chinese red envelopes and sent them home with the children with a note about what they were and some information about Lunar New Year.  Since I will be doing this program for at least 2 classes and maybe 4 classes, I decided to forgo the $2 bill for all the children.  I ordered some chocolate coins from Oriental Trading company to send home with the children this year.   They will probably like it better and will save me $100.

I guess the only thing I have to add is that H-Mart in Wheaton has had Rambutans all fall, so I may buy some and give them to the children.  They occasionally have Dragon Fruit there, but I can’t plan on them having them the days I need them.  I usually bring mandarin oranges (clementines) and cut up pieces of mango.  I will probably end up doing the oranges and mango, because it is a little much to expect 4 year olds to want to try fruit like dragon fruit and rambutans which are both odd looking.

I have heard from a couple of people who have used my lesson plan. Did anyone else use it to create your own celebration for your child’s class? Or do you plan to do it this year? I originally wrote it out and posted it on a couple of list serves, but put it on MyAsianKidDC earlier this year when I put the web site up.

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One Response to Preparing for Lunar New Year

  1. Michaele says:

    About the “coolie” hats…… Maybe that’s what the Vietnamese company calls them for Western markets. Aren’t they called “non la” in Vietnam?

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