First the kidlings gathered round while we learned a few facts about China:
- it's the 4th largest country
- population 1.3 billion (holy smokes!)
- capital: Beijing
- home of the largest mountain: Everest
- language: Mandarin
Next we learned about some Chinese inventions. I had items in a bag that kids volunteered to come and pick out.
- compass, etc....
Unfortunately some of their inventions I couldn't bring: fireworks, cannonballs, gunpowder...
Then of course we got busy learning how to celebrate New Year's:
- sweep the whole house to get rid of bad luck
- get some oranges (they're very lucky)
- visit your ancestors (and bring them oranges) Serious bad luck if you don't...
- get a haircut, new clothes, and new shoes (I personally love this one)
- wear red (it's very lucky)
- celebrate for 15 days with family, parades, and lots of food (like shark fin soup)
The kids were very willing to celebrate when they found out about red envelopes called "lai see." Parents, grandparents, relatives, put money in them and give them to all children. We gave each parent enough for each child to get one sometime at home.
Everyone had to find out what animal they were according to the Chinese zodiac and wear their name tag e.g. rooster, ox, snake. We learned about how long ago Buddha called all the animals together for a council and only 12 animals showed up. He thanked them by naming a year for each of them. All the kids (and adults) had to act like their animal and organize themselves into same animal groups. The Chinese believe that whatever year you are born in you will have characteristics of the animal. I happen to be a snake: restrained, tricky and subtle:)
Next we rotated into groups.
The girls started with writing Chinese calligraphy. They were to choose 2-3 different "characters" which I had printed out on cards and make poems out of them to hang in their house. e.g. they might choose house, love, dog. Then they tried their hand at writing the Chinese characters for these in black marker on their red papers.
The boys gladly went to the "tasters table" where I had some sliced oranges and fortune cookies. A few brave boys were willing to try the gingered plums and tea nuts I picked up from the Asian market. They also read a story about New Year's from the library called, Happy, Happy New Year!
Everyone went home with chopsticks and a zodiac calendar and enough "lai see" for the family!
Gung Hay Fat ChoY!!