Lunar New Year

Happy New Year!

The Lunar New Year (Asian Spring Festival) is celebrated throughout much of Asia and is often known as Chinese New Year. We 20130206-154454.jpgregularly celebrate the holiday at the library during story hour, and this year is no exception.

Instead of focusing on China, I found a book that will help me introduce many kids to Vietnam, among other countries, where the Lunar New Year is called Tết or Tết Nguyên Đán. Vietnam is on the minds of library goers these days because our community is part of the NEA’s Big Read and we are reading Tim O’Brien’s book The Things They Carried. While O’Brien’s book might not be appropriate for story time, the Lunar New Year certainly is!

As families arrived at the library, hung up winter coats, and parted with their snow-covered boots, the kids and I explored the library’s globe. For many it was a first lesson about what it is, what it can show us, and where our Northern town sits in relation to the rest of the world! We located Alaska, China, Washington (and Seattle- a significant airport for many of us flying to and from the Lower 48), Vietnam, and other places kids had visited.

20130209-165429.jpgAfter the majority of kids had settled in we began with a color song. We started with red, the color of the Lunar New Year, and worked our way through the ten colored shapes I added to the flannel board. While ten colors made for a long song and activity, the kids were excited and enthusiastically participated. So I kept to that number throughout the week. With just a little encouragement, kids quickly began calling out the name of the color and shape as I placed each felt piece on the board.

Red, red is the color I see
If you’re wearing red, then show it to me!
Stand up, take a bow, turn around
Then sit back down right on the ground!
(Repeat with other colors)

-Originally from Perpetual Preschool,
but I found it on the KCLS wiki

I also talked to the kids about the the number ten. Ten is featured in the Vietnamese book about the New Year which I read later in the line up called, Ten Mice for Tet. I always tell kids that what I love about numbers is that they can be numbers and words (text)! You should have seen the stunned looks I got when this flannel board was full! The connections were being made- 10 shapes, 10 colors, the word ten, and the number 10.

20130206-154533.jpgWe began story time with Dragon Dance, a lift-the-flap book that introduces some of the Lunar New Year concepts. For many Lunar New Year is a new holiday, so having each little one actively engage in the book helped keep the kids focused.We talked about the importance of the color red, the idea of a tradition (story times on Wednesday, anyone?), dragons, oranges, red envelopes, cleaning your home for the New Year, and fireworks.

I keep several of these books just for story time because they are either flip books which don’t last long in our library or I only have them in paperback. We do have several great books about the New Year in our collection, so kids were able to go home with new stories and ideas about how to celebrate the holiday at home.


Back to the flannel board! My felt dragons caused a felt emergency this week. First, I had trouble finding a template so I had to create one and I didn’t have much time. (Here’s my template.) Then I ran out of red felt because I wanted them to be two-ply and a little sturdier in the inquisitive hands of the preschoolers and toddlers. This was problematic because the one place to buy felt within an 80 mile area was out of red (presumably for Valentine’s Day which is right around the corner). After a few calls I was able to find some in the crafty homes of neighbors, but it made for late night cutting and stitching. It was all worth it!

Five Red Dragons
Five red dragons Making such a roar
One danced away And then there were four
Four red dragons Dancing ’round a tree
One danced away And then there were three
Three red dragons Dancing ’round you
One danced away And then there were two
Two red dragons Dancing in the sun
One danced away And then there was one
One red dragon having lots of fun
She danced away and then there were none.

Perpetual Preschool (color adapted)

On to Ten Mice for Tet! While the book was received with varying degrees of success in the different story times, what we all liked equally were the illustrations. Each page is actually an embroidered scene by To Ngoc Trang that has been photographed. The kids could easily see the stitches, similar to the ones on the felt dragons. (Okay, mine are nowhere near as nice, but they got the idea.) It’s an impressive book and includes a nice author’s note. The kids had lots of questions about the musical instruments, the food, and the Vietnamese writing on one of the pages that looks like a list. We talked about planning a party and what might included in that list.

We finished stories with the The Seven Red Sisters. This was a good choice because there is an adventure, the sisters all have special talents, and there is a dragon who at least tries to be fierce.  The story ends with the littlest sister growing to become a storyteller and the kids loved that.  Several even noticed that she was telling stories to kids with one of which was a baby like she was at the beginning. Once you read through this story once or twice, it is easy to memorize and embellish as needed. Hmmm, maybe there is flannel board story in the making…

For crafts, kids had the choice of making a Chinese lantern (pictured above) and/or a paper chai20130206-154512.jpgn snake to honor 2013, the Year of the Snake.  Both were easy to do, and fun. Kids practiced lots of skills cutting, gluing, taping, counting, etc.

For the lantern, I folded a red piece of construction paper in half length-wise and drew lines from the fold to about 1 inch before the opposite edge. These lines were about 1 inch apart. Kids cut on the lines, careful not to cut all the way through. Once the cutting was done, the paper is opened and the two short edges are taped or stapled together to form the cylinder with slits. I cut red strips for handles that kids staped or taped on.

For the snakes, I cut red strips about 1 inch wide and about 5 1/2 inches long. Kids used as many as they wanted to make a short or long snake by taping the strips’ ends together. Each new strip is looped through the one at the end of the chain before it is taped. I had black card stock circles left over from another craft that I modified for a snake’s head. Kids stapled these on to a loop at one of the ends. Eyes and a thin strip of yellow paper were then glued on to the head.

After several kids were finished they asked if we could have a parade! Of course!  Instead of parading through the library which we often do at Halloween, we decided to dance our parade in the kids room while I happily sang the Dragon Dance Song, oh, a zillion times!

Dragon (Lion) Dance Song (tune: Mary Had a Little Lamb)

See the dragon (lion) dance and prance
Dance and prance, dance and prance
See the dragon (lion) dance and prance
On Lunar New Year’s Day

Hear the firecrackers pop
Pop pop pop pop pop pop
Hear the firecrackers pop
On Lunar New Year’s Day

See the children laugh and clap
Laugh and clap laugh and clap
See the children laugh and clap
On Lunar New Year’s Day

Talk Story

20130206-154504.jpgAs children left the library, I offered them the traditional orange and small red envelope given by elders to children. The envelope was filled with a chocolate coin as a gift, but in year’s past, I have used stickers instead of chocolate or coins. After all, it’s a party!


One thought on “Lunar New Year

  1. Pingback: Storytime Theme: Lunar New Year – Literacious

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