10 fun ways to celebrate Lunar New Year with kids

Janelle Randazza
10 fun ways to celebrate Lunar New Year with kids

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The Lunar New Year is upon us! This special holiday celebration marks the first new moon of the lunisolar calendars traditional to many East Asian countries, including China, South Korea, and Vietnam. Whether it’s called Chinese New Year, Losar, Seollal, or Tết, Lunar New Year is celebrated by more than 1.5 billion people across the globe.

In China, the festival lasts 15 days, starting with a large feast on the night of its New Year’s Eve (this year it’s Tuesday, February 1) and ending with the Spring Lantern Festival (Feb. 15). Vietnam's Tết Nguyên Đán is celebrated for a week, and South Korea’s Seollal celebration is three days long.

However long your culture chooses to celebrate, Lunar New Year is a holiday filled with family-oriented traditions that honor good fortune and new beginnings. Here are some ideas for how you and your family can celebrate.

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Related: Asian Americans mark Lunar New Year with resilience: 'Joy is the most radical form of rebellion'

1. Don some new red duds

Red is the color of joy, and red clothes are said to scare away evil spirits.

In Asia, red is considered the color of luck and of joy. A new outfit symbolizes new beginnings, and if it’s red those beginnings are sure to be filled with good fortune.

Red clothes are also said to scare away evil spirits and invite good fortune for the year to come, so sport some scarlet from head to toe!

2. Deck the halls with red and gold

Decorating your house in red and gold symbolizes happiness and prosperity.

The color of good luck and happiness shouldn’t be relegated to the clothing alone. Deck the halls in crimson as well—and combine it with gold while you’re at it.

While red is for luck and joy, gold—unsurprisingly—symbolizes wealth and prosperity. Combining the two colors is a welcome mat for good fortune and prosperity in the New Year. This garland and balloon combo sets a shimmering stage that's sure to ring in an auspicious start to the New Year.

3. Learn an ancient art form

Jianzhi is an ornate paper cutting art. You can buy some to decorate with, or have your child make their own.

A fun and kid-friendly activity is the Chinese art of Jianzhi, a highly ornate paper cutting art that takes decades of disciplined practice, but—at its heart—is similar to cutting out paper snowflakes.

All you need is some red paper and some scissors to make these festive red Chinese New Year decorations. Like snowflakes, no two paper cutouts are exactly alike, so kids can make their own special statement in what they create.

4. Have a lucky dinner

Goldbelly can deliver a dim sum dinner filled with symbolic dishes for a lucky new year.

A lucky dinner, filled with dishes that hold symbolic meanings, makes an auspicious start to the lunar year. Poultry represents unity and loyalty. Whole fish represents prosperity and abundance. Shrimp dumplings and pork dumplings represent prosperity, while the “longevity noodles” are meant to honor and encourage a long and happy life.

A full lunar New Year dinner is filled with intention and meaning. There are dozens of cookbooks for inspiration, but you can also make dinner come to you via Goldbelly. With options to order from such places as the legendary Momofuku and the renowned Jing Fong in New York’s Chinatown, you are sure to have an impressive spread that will ring in a prosperous year.

Shop Lunar New Year dinner kits at Goldbelly

5. Fill some little red envelopes

These red envelopes are specially for children and contain money as a symbol of good luck and prosperity.

During that lucky dinner, be sure to hand out traditional red envelopes or hóng bāo in Mandarin and lai see in Cantonese.

These small red and gold packets are especially for children and contain money as a symbol of good luck and prosperity. Children are expected to spend the money within the year, so this sum shouldn’t go into their savings account. Instead, let them spend it on something that brings them joy.

Avoid giving coins, and try to give money in even amounts.

Get the Year of the Tiger lucky money envelopes at Amazon for $15.99

6. Make your own dragon dance

This fun kids' craft is filled with movement.

If you’re not able to get out and see the annual dragon dance at a Chinatown near you, bring the festival home. Dragons symbolize strength, power, dignity, and luck and are said to drive away evil spirits. Pull out the toy drums and cymbals and make your own dragon marionette, like this one from the Made With Happy blog.

Or, if you'd rather have a DIY kit, this one by Boao has everything you need for a speedy yet fun family craft.

Get the Chinese New Year Dragon Garland Art Crafts at Amazon for $9.49

7. Create some fireworks

If you're staying in, this rocket craft is a fun stand-in for a fireworks display.

Fireworks are a huge part of any Lunar New Year celebration. They are symbolically used to chase away evil spirits and welcome in the New Year with a powerful spark. While you can’t light fireworks off at home, you can certainly make this fun firework craft by Kid’s Craft Room.

We also like this vibrant and sparkly craft by Baker Ross that you can buy on Amazon. Six come in a pack and can be quickly assembled. Just add imagination for the firework "display."

Get the Baker Ross Firework Rocket Wand Craft Kit 6-pack at Amazon for $10.99

8. Have a mini lantern festival

The Chinese New Year typically culminates with a Spring Lantern Festival.

The Lunar New Year celebration ends this year on Feb. 15 with the Spring Lantern Festival. If you aren't able to attend one at your local Chinatown, you can definitely celebrate at home with a kid-friendly craft, or by buying these festive ones to hang with designs that celebrate spring.

Get the 10-piece spring lantern set at Amazon for $15.99

9. Learn the Chinese zodiac

This clever picture book teaches all about the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac.

We know it's the Year of the Tiger, but what does this actually mean? The 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac represent years, not months like they do in the Western zodiac. While both types of zodiac discuss personality traits, the Chinese zodiac puts emphasis on generational differences, whereas the Western zodiac focus on psychological ones.

This clever book has a young girl named Ruby meeting with each of the animals that represent the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac. In it she learns each of their personality traits, their moral journeys, and what makes them unique to one another. It's a great explanation and primer to the meaning behind this tradition and gives insight into how we celebrate each Lunar New Year with respect to the animal it honors.

Get Ruby's Chinese New Year at Amazon for $14.99

10. Take a trip to China (without leaving home)

Little Global Citizens helps kids learn about other cultures.

Little Global Citizens ranks as one of our editors’ favorite subscription boxes, and there’s good reason why. It’s a fully immersive experience in global cultures.

A trip to the Far East may not be in the cards, but we can teach our kids about the world with one of this company's award-winning kits. The China culture kit comes with authentic guides, informative books, inspired crafts, and a whole lot of fun screen-free activities to get kids involved, informed, and learning.

Get the Little Global Citizens Chinese culture box for at $44.95

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