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Tomorrow is Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, and the start of a new lunar year. Much like New Year's Eve in Western culture, the eve of Chinese New Year is packed with longstanding traditions, celebrations, and family togetherness. It's another great opportunity to talk to children about cultural celebrations and differences and expand those little minds. 

I spent some time traveling in China eleven years ago and was fascinated by how deliberate, meaningful, and rich Chinese customs and culture are. If you're looking to infuse some culture into your weekend or just a reason to celebrate, here are 5 easy and relatively inexpensive ways to ring in the year of the Rooster with your family:

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1. Read a Chinese New Year Children's Story

According to legend, the beginning of the Chinese New Year started with a mythical monster called Nian. My dad got Lucas The Nian Monster for Christmas this year and I've been saving it for tonight. The illustrations are bright and eye-catching and the book explains the history and symbolism of many of the festival's traditions. Here are 5 other favorite Chinese New Year children's stories:

Dragon Dance
Chelsea's Chinese New Year
Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas
The Runaway Wok: A Chinese New Year Tale
PoPo's Lucky Chinese New Year

2. Take in a Cultural Performance

A quick newspaper or Google search will reveal cultural performances and activities in your area, many of which are completely free! If you have a Chinatown in your city, you may even be able to catch a parade or fireworks ceremony.

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3. Sample Chinese Cuisine

This one's a no-brainer. My kids love Chinese cuisine and always leave with a full belly. Chinese restaurants are typically family-friendly to begin with and for Chinese New Year will have specials and/or a prix fixe with festivities. Just be sure to call ahead. If you think getting into P.F. Chang's on a Saturday night is tough, you ain't seen nothing like Chinese New Year's Eve.


4. Chinese New Year Crafts

Pinterest is a treasure-chest of simple ideas and crafts for Chinese New Year. Here are a few of my favorite:

Paper Plate Hand Fans
Chinese New Year Toilet Paper Tube Firecrackers
DIY Paper Fortune Cookies
Rooster Crafts
Fire-breathing Dragon
Hidden Monkey Color Challenge
Make Your Own Paper Plate Chinese Dragon

5. The 12 Animals of the Chinese Zodiac

The Chinese animal zodiac is a repeating cycle of 12 years, with each year being represented by an animal and its reputed attributes. Traditionally these zodiac animals were used to date the years. Your Chinese Zodiac sign is derived from your birth year, according to the Chinese lunar calendar. 

Similar to astrological zodiac signs, the Chinese zodiac animals have strengths and weaknesses, compatible love signs, lucky numbers, colors, and years. We spent a good amount of time this morning talking about our signs and the kids were giggling uncontrollably!

I like this website for finding and interpreting your Chinese zodiac because it includes lucky numbers and colors, which the kids were particularly excited by.

Do you have any Chinese New Year traditions?

Happy Lunar New Year, Glamamoms! 

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