Celebrate the year of the rat with these fun Chinese New Year activities

For many people, Chinese New Year is the longest and most important celebration of the year. It is a time of celebration, eating special foods, cleaning and decorating the house, giving gifts, fireworks, and preparing for the coming year. The color red is believed to bring luck, so people traditionally wear red clothes and give children “lucky money” in red envelopes. Family members meet at each other’s homes for visits and shared meals. The festivities usually end with the lantern festival, highlighted by the dragon dance. With your kids, ring in the New Year with the following fun Chinese New Year activities.

chinese new year dragon

The dragon symbolizes strength, kindness and good luck. Help your child make a simple dragon. Use an egg carton with three cups and have the children paint the cups red and yellow. Draw a dragon face shape and decorate with cotton balls and googly eyes. Cut the yarn into small pieces and glue them to the back of the dragon. Glue pom poms to the bottom of the egg carton cups to make legs. Have the children perform their own dragon dances as they parade together.

chinese lantern

Paint a paper plate red and cut out a circle in the middle. Take clear contact paper and cut a circle to fit inside the paper plate and tape it to the back. Cut red and yellow tissue paper into small pieces and place them on the sticky side of the sticky paper. Cut two rectangles out of red craft paper and glue them to the bottom and top of the lantern. Make a tassel out of yellow yarn and glue it to the bottom of the lantern.

The Chinese Calendar Crafts and Activities

Explain to the children that the Chinese lunar calendar is based on the cycles of the moon. Each year in a cycle is named after an animal. Legend has it that Buddha invited all the animals to join him for the New Year celebration, but only 12 showed up. They argued over who would lead the cycle of years, so Buddha organized a race: the first to reach opposite bank of the river would be the first, and the rest of the animals would receive their years according to their completion. The race started, but unknown to the ox, the rat had jumped onto his back. As the ox was about to jump to the ground, the rat jumped off the ox’s back and won the race. The pig, who was very lazy, finished last. That is why the rat is the first year of the animal cycle and the pig the last. The Chinese believe that the animal that rules the year a person is born has a strong influence on that person’s personality. Ask the children to make their own Chinese calendar using our patterns. Let them find their zodiac sign and see if the characteristics match their personality.

About Lai See

One of the most popular activities observed in Chinese New Year is the custom of hong bao, or the giving of small red envelopes (the color red is believed to bring good fortune) filled with “lucky money” to children by adults. To make your own red envelope (lai see), trace our envelope pattern onto red paper and assemble. Cut the end of a pointed drinking straw to make a feather. Ask the children to write some Chinese letters with the pen on the front of the envelope. Add a line of glue to the outer edge of the envelope and sprinkle gold glitter on it. Shake off excess glitter. Add a coin to the inside of the envelope and seal the flap with tape.

Cleaning and decoration of the house

A common Chinese New Year activity is cleaning and decorating the house. Cleaning the house is believed to help sweep away any bad luck that may have accumulated over the past year. Encourage the children to help you clean and tidy the house, dust every corner, wash the windows and sweep the rooms. However, remember not to sweep or dust on New Year’s Day because the good fortune might disappear. To decorate, help your children make paper curls. On the curls, write special messages such as “good fortune”, “good health” and “long life”, and then hang them in the house. Make and hang paper lanterns. Fill the house with fresh flowers and flowering plants.


Serve oranges and tangerines to children during Chinese New Year as they symbolize wealth and good luck. Some other lucky foods are noodles, which represent long life, clams and spring rolls, which denote wealth, and sticky rice cakes, which symbolize rich and sweet life and abundance for the coming year.

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