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Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year, the most important celebration in the Chinese calendar, takes place each year sometime between late January and mid February. In 2020, Chinese New Year is celebrated from 25 January.

This resource page provides ideas and resources to help you plan programmes of learning around this significant event. 

Chinese New Year is celebrated nationally and internationally with colour, noise, and light. The New Year celebrations span 15 days from the date of the first full moon in a calendar year. Because it follows the lunar cycle, the New Year date is always changing. According to Chinese calendar, from January 25, 2020 to February 11, 2021 is Year of the Rat

New Zealand boasts a large Chinese community and Chinese New Year celebrations are held across the country. By celebrating Chinese New Year in your school, you can involve your local Chinese community and encourage your students to think nationally and globally and become more Asia aware. If you have students of Chinese origin, you can invite them to lead the learning as experts in the classroom.

By learning about Chinese New Year, students can examine the social science concepts of cultural identity, place and environment, and continuity and change. It is also a useful context to explore values such as diversity and respect, and to develop key competencies such as thinking, relating to others, and participating and contributing. 

Lunar New Year
Chinese New Year is also referred to as Lunar New Year. People from China, Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Singapore and other Asian countries celebrate the Lunar New Year as a national holiday. Customs and traditions differ between countries but the dates of celebration are similar because many countries in Asia interpret the lunar calendar the same way. 

This events page focuses on Chinese customs and traditions around the Lunar New Year. If you have students who come from other Asian countries you might like to use the term Lunar New Year and focus on how different Asian countries celebrate this special time. Invite your Asian students and their families to share their knowledge and cultural practices. 

Getting started

The following classroom activities can be used to help students develop understandings about the Chinese New Year. These activities have been derived from units of work that align with The New Zealand Curriculum:

  • Have a lantern festival in your classroom based around lantern festival stories. The students can design and make a lantern either independently or in small groups.
  • Ask your students to bring to school a family object or photograph that relates to a New Year celebration. Make a discovery table with the objects displayed. Film children talking about the significance of their item, in English or in a first language. Play your recording near the items for parents and visitors.
  • Use photographs as a starter for discussions of cultural stereotyping and how easy it is to look at some very visible things about a culture and make judgments about people in that culture. Does the Chinese lantern festival explain who a Chinese New Zealander is and what he/she stands for?
  • Ask students to explore two different festivals and compare their findings for the two celebrations. What values and beliefs are the same across the two cultures? How are these reflected differently in the two celebrations? What purposes do these cultural festivals fulfill?
  • “Festivals and celebrations vary across cultures, but often have similar purposes.” Discuss with students whether they agree or disagree with this statement. Ask them to provide examples supporting their opinions.
  • Read examples of celebrations with your students and ask them to identify and describe a celebration that they have recently participated in. Students can then complete conceptual development activities based on their own lives.


Chinese New Year by Cherie Wu.

This Ready to Read book follows Murphy and his family as they prepare for and celebrate Chinese New Year. It describes significant aspects of the fifteen days of celebrations, including decorations, clothing, food, and special events.

Teacher Support Materials (TSM) and audio are available online. 

Nian, the New Year Monster, a Chinese tale, retold by Chris Tse

This story sets out to explain the origin of the Chinese New Year festival. It tells how a mysterious old man helps a village to get rid of Nian, a rampaging monster who has been terrorising the villagers at the start of every spring (on the first day of the Chinese New Year). The story is told in the style of a traditional folk tale, but its origins are thought to be more recent.

Text, Teacher Support Materials (TSM) and audio are available online. 

There is a selection of other stories online in the Instructional Series catalogue with a Chinese theme that might help your students to build their understanding of China, it's people and it's traditions. 

Chinese lantern festival (levels 1-2) and Chinese lantern festival (levels 3-4)
These units from the Asia Knowledge website explore the traditions surrounding the Chinese lantern festival. Students are encouraged to explore how the Chinese lantern festival is celebrated and to discover why this festival is significant to people of Chinese descent.

Asia celebrations
These three units of learning use the social sciences to explore Asian celebrations, including Chinese New Year. Each unit provides a different angle on celebrations and offers learning activities suited to levels 2, 4, or 5 of The New Zealand Curriculum.

Supporting resources

Things to do with kids for Chinese New Year
This website provides background information about Chinese New Year and offers ideas for art and craft projects to help students bring the festival to life.

New Zealand History – Chinese New Year
This page from the New Zealand History website gives suggestions of learning activities about Chinese New Year for social science teachers and students.

Story of Nian, a Chinese New Year story
This YouTube video offers a traditional storytelling of the origins of some Chinese New Year traditions.

Chinese New Year events around New Zealand

There is a range of Chinese New Year events being held throughout New Zealand. You might like to attend an event with your class or promote them in your school newsletter. Find out what is happening near you:

Growing Asia awareness

These resources offer ideas on how to provide students with opportunities to learn about Asia.

Asia Knowledge
This website is designed to help schools use Asia knowledge as a context for integrated learning and future-focused themes.

Chinese New Zealanders by Helene Wong

"Chinese New Zealanders" provides an overview of migration to Aotearoa New Zealand from the 1860s until the present day.

The article outlines push-and-pull factors that contributed to various waves of migration, how Pākehā New Zealanders responded to these waves, and adaptations made by Chinese migrants as they adjusted to their new home.

Text and Teacher Support Materials (TSM) are available online. 

Asia New Zealand resources
These Asia New Zealand teaching and learning resources offer ways to align Asia knowledge with The New Zealand Curriculum and NCEA standards through different contexts, approaches, and learning areas.

Have you seen?

Asia Aware – Why Asia matters to New Zealand?
This 2009 report by the Asia New Zealand Foundation highlights the importance of building strong links with the Asia region and explores the role that education can play in this.

Updated on: 17 Dec 2019