A cultural celebration to share with your adopted Chinese son or daughter
Chinese New Year falls on February 8 in 2016 and heralds the Year of the Monkey (or Lunar Year 4714). Also known as the Spring Festival, Chinese New Year is not just a one-day celebration. Festivities start on the eve of the event and continue through the Lantern Festival, which falls on February 22 this year.
If you live in a major metropolitan area, chances are you’ll have your pick of events. Washington, DC, has an annual Chinese New Year parade and festival that features a Chinese dragon dance and fireworks. San Francisco’s Chinese New Year parade, named one of the top 10 parades in the world, features floats, costumes, firecrackers, and music. Not all regions have Chinese New Year celebrations, however. Many parts of the country are culturally homogeneous, and festive celebrations are limited to Christmas, Easter, and Halloween.
Whether your hometown has organized events or is completely oblivious to the occasion, you can make sure this time of year is special for your family and community. Here are a few ways to do just that:
Read books about the Chinese New Year to your child. Offer to have a story time at your library, child’s school, or playgroup as well.
- Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2008). A colorful, engaging book that highlights the traditions and celebrations associated with the Chinese New Year.
- Dragon Dance: A Chinese New Year Lift-the-Flap Book by Joan Holub (Puffin Books, 2003). This is another resource with stunning illustrations and an interactive lift-the-flap component.
- Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chinn (Lee & Low Books, 1995). This is the story of Sam, a boy who is excited to spend his lucky money as he meanders through Chinatown, which is bustling with firecrackers, lion dances, and other Chinese New Year celebrations. The book includes a Chinese astrology wheel.
- Celebrating Chinese New Year by Hingman Chan (Asia for Kids, 2004). This activity book includes ideas for crafts along with information about the holiday.
- Emma’s American Chinese New Year by Amy Meadows (Outskirts Press, 2012). Emma was adopted from China, and this book shows how her American family celebrates the Chinese New Year.
Plan an event
If you are ambitious, you can also plan an event at your child’s school or playgroup. This will give your child a chance to celebrate with a larger group of people, and it has the added benefit of teaching others about valuable traditions.
Procure and prepare lucky foods. Even if you live in an area where the most exotic grocery store is Safeway, Amazon and other online retailers often have a nice selection of candy, preserved fruits, and other sweets. Cooking as a family and sharing the meal with friends and relatives can make the event even more special. Here are some resources:
- Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China by Fuchsia Dunlop (W. W. Norton & Company, 2008). Dunlop is a leading authority on Chinese cuisine and culture. She has several cookbooks highlighting foods and traditions of different regions. This memoir is a great starting point for you or older children.
- Good Luck Life by Rosemary Gong (William Morrow, 2005). This is another outstanding resource on Chinese celebrations and traditions.
- Moonbeams, Dumplings, and Dragon Boats by Nina Simonds (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2002). This book has both recipes and ideas for activities to help you celebrate the Chinese New Year and other holidays.
Decorate your home
Again, even if you don’t have an Asian market in your area, it is possible to buy festive decorations online through ChinaSprout, Amazon, Party City, Oriental Trading, and other sites. Decorations are a daily reminder that this time of year is special.
Celebrate the Year of the Monkey
Get to know the lucky (and unlucky) numbers, colors, flowers, and directions associated with the Year of the Monkey. You can also explore the personality and love compatibility for people born in the Year of the Monkey and explore what this means for your family and how this might (or might not) fit in with your family’s values and worldview. Are all people born in the Year of the Monkey arrogant and selfish? Are people born in the Year of the Monkey destined to not get along with people born in the Year of the Pig or the Year of the Tiger?
Put your own spin on the celebration
Adding traditions and celebrations unique to your family will make the holiday even more special.
We’d love to hear what you do to celebrate your adopted child’s birth culture. Send your story to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Danielle Bostick, a former Solo Mom and ESME’s Well-being/Health & Fitness Guide, is a Latin teacher, an advocate, and a mom to six kids in Winchester, Virginia. When not working as an educator, Bostick writes about the National Football League for various sites and sexual assault and child sexual abuse for the Huffington Post. You can find her on Twitter: @danibostick, and on Facebook: Dani Bostick.
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