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Friday I took my daughter to the library so that we could give daddy quiet time to sleep, and I just really like spending time in our local library.  I walked in and sitting on the ledge was a brightly illustrated book that immediately caught my eye.  Chinese New Year seemed out of place in the midst of valentine story books.  I had to pick it up, not only because it caught my eye, but because I knew that it would be a great book to read as part of my Cinderella unit (that I don’t have a class to teach yet!).  Interestingly enough, Friday also happened to be the Chinese New Year – Year of the Horse!!!!  I found a tie between both Yeh-Shen: The Chinese Cinderella and The Korean Cinderella, as they both mention a festival.  Yeh-Shen comes out and calls it the spring festival (which I learned is another name of the Chinese New Year.)  The Korean Cinderella talks about a village festival and wearing new clothes.  I’m not sure if these stories are about the Chinese/Korean New Year but I like to interpret that as a yes!

Holidays, Festivals, & Celebrations: Chinese New Year by Ann Heinrichs illustrated by Benrei Huang divide the book several different sections.  She included information about Gung Hay Fat Choy – which is the Chinese New Year greeting.  She explained how the Chinese New Year follows the first new moon of the year,  since the Chinese utilize a lunar calendar, thus the holiday generally falls between January 20 and February 20th  Did you know that the second day of the New Year is the birthday of all dogs? Ann adds great little side notes such as that brilliant little tidbit on the borders of each page.  

Have you ever wondered why there is always a dragon?  I know I have.  Ann tells the story of how a dragon held a town in fear.  One New Years Eve an old man told the villagers that the dragon was afraid of loud noises, bright lights and the color red (um, maybe the dragon had a sensory processing disorder and it didn’t mean to terrorize the town).  How do you think the villagers got rid of that dragon?

Symbolism is key in the Chinese New Year, it is a time to prepare the heart, it promises hope and joy.  It is a time for out with the old in with the new.  The holiday is often a time of new clothes, haircuts, cleaning the house, and paying old bills.  It is a time for food and family.  One popular dish is that of a whole fish – which symbolizes hope, togetherness and bountifulness.  Long, uncut noodles, which stand for long life, accompany .  Sweet foods are served in the Tray of Togetherness in which each of the 8 sweets hold special meaning.  The Chinese New Year is fifteen days of joy – with special activities on each day culminating with the last day in which the full moon rises and that is the Lantern Festival.

I particularly enjoyed the section on activities that children could do to celebrate this Spring Festival.  She suggests asking a friend of Chinese descent how their family celebrates, visit a local Chinese neighborhood, go to a Chinese new year parade, visit a Chinese restaurant, write spring couplets with happy wishes – put them on red paper, clean your room give old toys away.  get in touch with an old friend, make Nian Gao – the Chinese New Year cake (and she even adds the recipe, yum), and finally gives instructions on how to make your own circle snake.

I enjoyed the colorful illustrations, the interesting facts, and great ideas for incorporating Chinese culture into either the home or the classroom.  I think reading this book would be a great way to introduce Yeh-Shen, and I would also use it to discuss the common elements in The Korean Cinderella.

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