Lunar New Year Celebration Ideas for Kids (& Recipes!)
This year, the Lunar New Year starts on January 22, 2023!
There are different ways to celebrate the new year festivities with kids from cooking traditional Lunar New Year Foods, doing new year crafts and playing games.
Here’s how to have a special Lunar New Year this year and celebrate this special occasion with the whole family.
Related: Chinese New Year Craft for Kids
When is Lunar New Year and What is it?
This year, Lunar New Year is on January 22, 2023. It is one of the widely celebrated and most important holidays in Asian countries and the Asian diaspora.
As alluded to in the word “Lunar”, it is based on the lunisolar calendar which includes the changing of moon phases that occurs every month.
Lunar New Year celebrates the beginning of spring and the start of the new year as per the lunar calendar. It is a 15-day celebration that starts on the first day of the new moon and concludes on the full moon.
In China, this grand and ancient celebration is called “Guo Nian.” Some of the Chinese New Year traditions include having family dinners, purchasing New Year’s gifts, goods and merchandise and posting Spring Festival couplets.
A couplet is a pair of auspicious poetic lines that are written in Chinese calligraphy with black or gold ink on red paper.
Lunar New Year Games and Activities
Games and activities are a great way for children to celebrate Chinese new year by learning about their own culture or the cultures of others.
1. Play the Chopsticks Game
In this game, kids can finetune their fine motor skills, and strengthen their finger dexterity while learning an ancient skill and having fun. What you’ll need:
- A pair of chopsticks for each player
- Plastic bowls
- A variety of small items that can be picked up with chopsticks like marshmallows, hard candy, dried beans, corn kernels and/or grains of rice
How to play:
Place the items in each bowl and assign a point system for the levels of difficulty. For instance, marshmallows could be 1 point; dried beans could be 3 points; grains of rice or corn kernels could be 5 points each.
Provide each player with an empty bowl.
Set a timer for 1 minute. Then each player will take turns transferring items into their bowl.
At the end of the round, count how many points each player has and who has the most wins.
2. Learn About the Chinese Zodiac Animals
This coming Lunar New Year will be the Year of the Rabbit, but what does that symbolize? The 12 Chinese zodiac animals represent years and highlight generational differences.
Teach your kids more about the Chinese zodiac by reading Ruby’s Chinese New Year. In this beautifully illustrated book, the Chinese zodiac animals help Ruby deliver a special card to her grandmother.
From the cautious Rabbit, strong Ox and quick-witted Rat, the little girl learns about each animal’s personality and traits on her journey.
Get it on Amazon here.
3. Host a Red Fashion Show / Contest
The color red is associated with luck, prosperity, fortune and joy in Asian countries and in Chinese culture.
As part of Lunar New Year celebrations, getting dressed in new clothes is a tradition that symbolizes a new beginning. It is believed that wearing red can ward off evil spirits and bad luck and encourage good luck for the coming year.
Have your family members get creative with their wardrobes and host a fashion show where everyone is decked out in red.
It’ll be a blast to see their inner fashionistas come out and shine.
4. Try Face Painting
Now that you’re more familiar with the Chinese Zodiac animals, have fun and turn your children’s cute little faces into their favorite animals. Celebrate with some face painting.
We like the Snazaroo Face Painting kit because it’s washable, designed for sensitive skin, easy to use and fragrance-free.
Get it on Amazon here
5. Play Find the Red Pocket Game
Red pockets or red envelopes are lucky packets that are filled with lucky money that people give to their families, friends and loved ones.
It’s a very special tradition that parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and other elders commonly give to children as they celebrate the Chinese new year. The passing of red envelopes symbolizes the transfer of wealth, good fortune and luck to the next generation.
Celebrate lunar new year by playing the red pocket treasure hunt game. The rules of the game are simple. Fill the red pockets with different types of treasure and hide them around the house for children to find. The treasure can be actual money, candy, treats, stickers or anything else your children enjoy.
Lunar New Year Foods and Recipes
Food and the Lunar New Year go hand in hand as it brings families together. On Lunar New Year’s Eve, many Asian families will have a traditional “reunion dinner”.
Having plenty of different dishes is important; each dish represents good things to come for the new year.
For instance, a whole fish symbolizes abundance. Fish in Mandarin has the same pronunciation as “leftover” which means every year, you will have so much wealth or food that you will have it left over to carry into the new year. Check out this recipe for traditional steamed whole fish with ginger, soy, scallions and cilantro.
A whole chicken is often served during the “reunion dinner” as it symbolizes unity and the entire family coming together. Enjoy this classic, healthy, and super easy traditional Chinese poached chicken.
Another food that holds symbolic meanings is dumplings because they resemble Chinese silver ingots and symbolize wealth and prosperity. Gather around with the family and make these delicious pork and celery dumplings.
Serving “longevity noodles” is a tradition as they represent a long and happy life. We like this simple and easy recipe for steamed noodles with green beans.
Lastly, tangyuan (sweet rice balls) are often eaten on the fifteenth and last day of the Chinese New Year holiday. Tangyuan is a sweet rice dumpling made with glutinous rice flour filled with something sweet such as red bean, taro, sesame or peanut.
The consistency is similar to mochi or rice cake. Here’s a recipe for sweet rice balls with black sesame filling.
Lunar New Year Crafts and Decorations
A Lunar New Year celebration isn’t complete without decorations. Here are some you can try with your children.
Chinese Paper Lanterns
Making your own Chinese lanterns is an easy craft your kids will have fun with. They make great decorations too. Once they’re made, thread them together with a ribbon and hand them along your windows.
We like this Chinese lantern craft that only requires scissors, paper and tape and takes 5 steps.
Firecracker Display Crafts
Lighting firecrackers during Lunar New Year is meant to scare away evil spirits and start the new year with a spark. Although you can’t set firecrackers off at home, you can create a display craft that gives a similar sparkly effect. We like this fun and vibrant craft that has a printable template and video tutorial.
Masks can be a simple and creative way for children to learn about the Chinese zodiac or transform into the Chinese lion or dragon.
Masks can be made with paper plates and decorated with markers, construction paper, crayons, paint, ribbons, pipe cleaners or tissue paper.
For more fun and educational ways to learn about Lunar New Year, take our Chinese New Year Quiz!