Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy New Year Around the World, Plus a Gift Guide

Xin Nian Kuai Le!
-- or, Happy New Year in Mandarin Chinese

January 1st is New Year’s Day throughout the world that uses the Christian Gregorian calendar.  But many religions and cultures celebrate the New Year on other days.  Below is a chart showing New Year celebrations for some other religions and cultures.

Learn when the New Year is celebrated by various religions & cultures and use the gift guide in this blog post to help you celebrate Chinese New Year | The ESL Nexus
New Year celebrations in 2019; source: The ESL Nexus
Perhaps the most famous non-religious New Year holiday in the U.S. is Chinese New Year.  In China, the holiday has been celebrated for thousands of years.  Originally religious and lasting 15 days, it is now a secular holiday.  Chinese communities around the world celebrate it as well, often with parades that include lion and dragon dances.  When I first went to China, I arrived towards the end of Spring Festival, which culminates with the Lantern Festival.  I was invited to the home of a family, with whom I became close, and got to see how the holiday was celebrated there. 

After I returned to the U.S. and started teaching in a public school, I always made a point of doing something in my ESL Social Studies classes to celebrate Spring Festival, pointing out that that was what the Chinese people called the holiday.  I’ve created this gift guide so you, too, can celebrate Chinese New Year with your students.  Some of the items are for you to share with your students and some are for just for you. 

Find great ideas for celebrating Chinese New Year in this gift guide! | The ESL Nexus
10 items that help you celebrate Spring Festival; source: The ESL Nexus
(This post contains Amazon affiliate links.  That means that I make a small commission if you make a purchase but it's at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!)

Click on the pictures for info about each item.

FOR STUDENTS

White Rabbit Candy

This was very popular when I was in China and I was happy to find it in the U.S. upon my return.  It's sort of like taffee; sometimes it's chewy and sometimes it's not but both types are good.  I passed it out it to my students until my district said we couldn't give food to students anymore.

Chopsticks

One year, when I taught Chinese language as an after-school activity, I brought in Chinese food from a local restaurant on the last day and showed students how to use chopsticks.  We all had fun trying to eat with them!  This product contains 100 pairs of bamboo chopsticks.  I used to think disposable chopsticks were a waste but bamboo is a renewable resource so now I know it's okay to use them.

Red Envelopes

Red envelopes with money inside are traditionally given to children for Spring Festival.  Instead of money, you could write short notes to your students and put them inside one of the envelopes.  Or you could have your students do a writing assignment: Depending on their grade and language proficiency, they could write a poem about Chinese New Year, or make a card for their family or a classmate, or draw a picture about Chinese New Year and put it inside the envelope.

Fortune Cookies


Even though fortune cookies were created in the U.S. -- I never ate them in China -- what would Chinese New Year be without them?  This bag includes 50 cookies; although I haven't personally eaten this particular brand, what I like about them is that they don't have high fructose corn syrup in them. And the sayings are supposed to be appropriate for kids.

Chinese Take-Out Boxes


These boxes would make great gift bags!  You can put the White Rabbit candy, chopsticks, fortune cookie, and red envelope containing a note to your students (if you're doing that) all in one of these small boxes.  Or put any other Chinese New Year related items in it and give them to your students.  The boxes are 16 ounces in size and there are 15 of them in the package.

FOR TEACHERS

Room Decorations


Traditionally, people hang posters with Chinese couplets or pictures of Chinese gods on each side of their door for good luck in the new year.  When I was traveling in southwest China on one of my vacations, I bought one poster and when I came home, I got it framed.  Subsequently, I bought small posters that said "Xin Nian Kuai Le" (Happy New Year) and put them up in my classroom for Chinese New Year every year.  These decorations will surely create a festive atmosphere in your room.

Jasmine Tea


Everywhere I went in China, I was offered jasmine tea.  This is the brand I found in Chinese grocery stores in the U.S. and it's delicious.  Just put a teaspoonful in a cup and let it steep in hot water for a few minutes.  The tin makes a pretty container, too, once you've finished all the tea.

Yixing Teapot
 
Yixing is a town in China near Shanghai famous for its "purple sand" teapots.  One year, a friend and I went there.  I bought several teapots in various shapes and colors.  The reason Yixing teapots are famous is because, if you only brew the same kind of tea in the pot, after a long time, supposedly you no longer need to use tea leaves -- you can just put boiling water in the pot and it will taste like the flavor of the tea that was used.  Yixing teapots come in a wide range of prices; the most expensive can run hundreds of dollars, but this is much more reasonable for a teacher's budget.

Tao Te Jing Book


I bought the first edition of this book back in the 1980s.  In my opinion, it's the best translation ever of the Tao.  The book is organized with one page in  Chinese and the opposite page in the English translation.  Black-and-white photographs enhance the chapters.  From what I can tell, this newer version has the same layout.  If you want to contemplate the Tao -- the Way -- you won't go wrong with this book.

TpT Bundle of China Resources
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/China-Big-Bundle-of-Writing-Reading-Grammar-Word-Search-Activities-Clipart-2898204

Lastly, here are 6 resources about China for students.  There is information about Chinese history, geography, and culture as well as emperors and philosophers.  Resources include reading, writing, and grammar activities plus word search puzzles for every animal of the Chinese zodiac.  Clipart images of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac, based on photographs of a souvenir I bought in Xi'an, are also included.  You can buy each resource separately but you'll save some money by purchasing this bundle.  You can find it HERE.

Whenever you celebrate the New Year, I wish you peace and good fortune!

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