YEAR, OR YUAN TAN
By Caroline Donne
Date varies from year to year - please check www.chinapage.com for details
for KS2 or Class Assembly
Chinese New Year; new
beginnings; looking forward to the future.
Preparation and materials
- Background: Chinese New Year is a spring festival and
has been celebrated for over 3,000 years. Originally it was a festival in which
farmers hoped for a good harvest in the year to come. It is linked to the lunar
calendar and the first day of the New Year always has a new moon.
- Before the
festival there is a period of preparation when houses are cleaned, lucky red
decorations are hung over doors and around rooms, and new clothes are bought.
Debts and business accounts are settled before New Year's Day. Ancestor worship
is very important in Chinese culture and the period before New Year is
especially a time to remember ancestors.
- The festival can
last up to 15 days, but is usually celebrated over three days. Shops and
businesses are usually shut and people gather in family groups and visit
friends. It's a time of religious reflection and great fun with the giving of
gifts, flowers, sweets and lucky money, as well as feasting, dragon dances and
- Materials: A picture of a Ram; a
traditional Chinese red envelope for lucky money; a picture of a dragon dance
or a dragon mask. Show these at appropriate times in the assembly.
- Remind the children of the new
year celebrations they may have had this year. What did they do? Using the
background material, explain that for many Chinese people today is the first
day of their new year. They've been looking forward to it over the last few
weeks and getting their houses ready for the celebrations. These preparations
include putting up big red decorations (red is thought to be a lucky colour),
hanging two-line messages with new year good wishes around the doors, cleaning
the house and buying new clothes. It's also a time when Chinese people visit
their temples and they especially remember their ancestors, people who were
part of the family but who have now died. Explain that for many Chinese people
respect for parents and for elderly people is very important.
- Explain that today, the first day
of the new year, everyone wishes everyone else 'Happy New Year' - much as we do
on 1 January. It's a time to be thankful for the last year, to look forward to
what may happen this year and to hope that it will be a good one. Children are
given special little red envelopes (remember that red is a lucky colour) with
'lucky money' inside. Families will meet together to eat special food and wear
new clothes. In some places dumplings are a favourite new year food and they
have different fillings, each of which have a different meaning: for example,
dumplings filled with sugar will bring a sweet life. Sometimes there's money
inside the dumplings.
- Explain that there are also
things that you can't do on Chinese New Year's Day. Knives and scissors are not
used because they are thought to be unlucky. So if you need a hair-cut, you
must have it done before the New Year festival! During this time everyone tries
to be kind and friendly to everyone else.
- Point out that animals are very
important too. In China, every year has the name of an animal. There are 12
important animals, so each animal has its turn once every12 years. This year
(2003) it's the year of the Ram. Rams are thought to be kind and to take care
of their families, but sometimes they can't make up their minds. Many people
think that the sort of person you are, your personality, depends on the year
you were born. The last year of the Ram was 1991. Discover who was born in that
year or who has a sister or brother born then.
- Explain that the celebrations
will go on after today. Chinese New Year can be a noisy time too, because
people light firecrackers. A long time ago this was thought to chase away
ghosts and monsters.
There's lots of dancing too. People get together
in teams for these dances. One of the most well-known is the dragon dance,
where one person wears a dragon mask, and the people following on behind, under
a long piece of cloth, are the dragon's tail. There can be twenty or thirty
people inside the tail. Dragons were thought to be friendly and helpful and
that's why people dress up as dragons today.
on the themes
Recap on the things that are important in
Chinese New Year: spending time with family and friends, being kind to one
another, hoping for enough food to eat and enough money to live on, remembering
people who have died. Ask the children what they think might make a good new
Prepare the children for a time of quiet.
Invite them to sit comfortably and to close their eyes if it helps them to
concentrate. Play music or light a candle to signify that this is a special
You could read out the following Chinese wish of hope for the
future: 'May your happiness be as wide as the East Sea.'
Go on to
invite the children to think about two things that they hope for for their
friends and family this year and two good things that they hope for for the
world this year.