Chinese new years is a time to welcome spring and the new year. It is celebrated for sixteen days and has many traditional customs and ritual associated with it: a time for cleaning the house, shopping for the new year, putting up decorations like red lanterns, giving red envelopes with money to kids for good luck, and having delicious meals!
Hybrid Parenting interviewed second-generation Chinese-American Jane Bolander. From her experiences, growing up and celebrating Chinese New Years in America, she would say that the most important part are the meals with family, friends, and symbolic food!
To celebrate with your children at home try one of these recipes at home.
1. What does your family typically do to celebrate Chinese New Years?
Most of our Chinese New Years celebrations revolve around having a special meal together. The meals are filled with foods that are symbolic during Chinese New Year. Growing up as a second-generation Chinese-American, we didn’t have a lot of family around, so we didn’t do a formal celebrations, but we always had a nice meal together.
We typically had fish which is sign of prosperity. A popular phrase during this time “May you always have more than you need!” Spring rolls actually got their name from being a traditional item during this spring festival. The “golden” yellow color symblizes a wish for prosperity. Chinese dumplings with cabbage and radish are for happiness and celebration in life. The “longevity” noodles signify a wish for longevity in life. They are longer than most noodles and take longer to prepare.There were also “good luck” fruits like oranges and tangerines.
We also had Chinese desserts such as sticky cake which symbolizes increasing prosperity every year. We had egg custard tarts to symbolize rising abundance in years to come and sesame seed balls which are round so they are associated with a reunion and being together. Another dish we had was the sweet red bean soup, the red color signifies good luck.
2. What do you wish all parents knew about Chinese New Years?
As a second-generation Chinese-American, my elementary, middle, or high school never ever did anything for Chinese New Years. I don’t even think they mentioned it!! It would be nice if schools taught Chinese New Years because there is a large population of Chinese people in the SF Bay Area. I think read aloud books like Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin can help all children understand how Chinese New Years is celebrated in families. This will also help everyone honor and respect other holidays worldwide. In China, it is just as important as holidays like Christmas and New Years Eve. It’s the time of year that everyone checks out of work to prepare and celebrate.
3. What if children want to celebrate Chinese New Years— but are not Chinese?
I think most holidays for Chinese people are all about food, so it would be having access to the food that people eat during these holidays. As I mentioned, everything is always all about food and family. So during Chinese New Years, parents and children could prepare or buy some traditional dishes to try together. It is all about spending some quality time together.
Parents can also do simple arts and crafts projects with their children. This is a time when families decorate their home for good luck, happiness, and prosperity. There are many different ways children can decorate their homes. Younger children may want to make chinese lanterns, while older children may want to engage in something a bit more complicated like a paper-cutting activity. Tangram puzzles are also a great activity for the whole family to engage in!