I always thought it sounded so fun to celebrate Chinese New Years. I kept meaning to, but because the date changes each year it kept sneaking up on me. Then when it suddenly arrived, I would have no plans or preparations completed, so I'd let it slide. Year after year.
Then two years ago, I got together with a couple of other moms and we planned a very fun day with our kids. It was great, but I also learned that I was way over estimating how hard it would be to add this into my schedule. Of course, you can go all out and make it very authentic if you have the time and inclination, but you can do a lot of things to mark the day that take very little, if any, advanced prep.
Here are some great, quick ways to celebrate Chinese New Year:
1. Wear red. Red is the lucky colour in Chinese culture for this day, so I dress my children and myself in it for the occasion. Even my husband remembered on his own this year! Ha!
2. Eat oranges. It is a traditional food for the day, and something we usually have stocked in our fridge.
3. Go online with your kids and find out what the animal was for the year of their births, and discuss the traits they may see in themselves that match their animal.
4. Go out for Chinese Food at supper! Talk about no prep, this is a breeze! No planning what is for dinner! No chopping vegetables! No dishes to do! Yes, it will cost a bit, but we almost never go out to eat, so the splurge didn't feel too painful.
5. Pop into your favourite grocery store, go to the bulk bins, and pick up some fortune cookies. Very fun, very cheap. While you're there, pick up a small flower arrangement and go bring it to a friend. Exchanging flowers is a custom for the day that I find completely wonderful.
6. Watch Mulan. Okay, it might not be the most 'high brow' way to introduce your child to China, but it is fun, takes no planning, and they'll like to have a special movie for the day.
7. Watch a dragon dance on Youtube.
8. Pass out Lucky Money in a red envelope to the kids. This was one thing my daughter kept asking about all day! "Did you get red envelopes for today?" "Do we get lucky money?" "Are you keeping it a surprise?" Truthfully, I had forgotten about the tradition to give children some lucky money, and I didn't have any red envelopes in the house. So I folded up some red construction paper and came up with these in about 5 minutes. I don't give the kids much money - $1 each from my change jar was good enough!
9. Get back on the Internet, look up a few simple Chinese symbols and let the kids try drawing them, or tracing one you've made. Alternatively, let they try it with a paintbrush like a real calligrapher.
10. Break out the secret stash of candy that you keep hidden from the kids, (you do have one, admit it!) and make up a candy plate. It may not have the authentic sweets you'd find in China, (do they have Twizzlers there?) but it will bring your kids the same joyful surprise that it does to children across the sea.