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Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year, the most important celebration in the Chinese calendar, takes place each year 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. 

Lion Dance.

About Chinese New Year

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 often different. This year we celebrate Chinese New Year from 25 January–11 February 2020. It 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.

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. 

Curriculum connections

NZC Curriculum icon.

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. 

How can you get involved? 

Some ideas for classroom programmes or school-wide activities derived from units of work that align with The New Zealand Curriculum:

Chinese lantern.

Explore the origins of the lantern festival
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.

Share your New Year traditions
Ask your students to bring to school a family object or photograph that relates to their own New Year celebrations. 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.

Discuss cultural stereotyping
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 judgements about people in that culture. Does the Chinese lantern festival explain who a Chinese New Zealander is and what he/she stands for?

Compare festivals
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 fulfil?

Examine the purpose of festivals and celebrations
“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.

Explore different celebrations
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.

Instructional Series 

Another great way to get your students involved in Chinese New Year is to incorporate it into your reading and writing programme. The Instructional Series offers a range of texts about China and the Chinese New Year. You can find titles here.

Chinese New Year: Ready to Read
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: Junior Journal 59, 2019
This story explains 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. Teacher Support Materials (TSM) and audio are available online. 

Useful resources

Chinese New Year 

  • 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.

Asia awareness

  • 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: School Journal Level 4, November 2019
    This text 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.

Events in your community

There are 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:

Have you seen?

Asia Aware report cover.

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.

Do you have a story to share about Chinese New Year celebrations or Asia awareness?

  • How do you include Asia awareness in your school curriculum?
  • What projects have your students been involved in?

We would love to hear from you. Drop us a line at nzcurriculum@tki.org.nz. We will publish the best teaching and learning ideas on this resource page.

Updated on: 28 Jan 2020


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