Chinese New Year for Kids to Enjoy
February 11, 2021
Place setting on Chinese New Table for kids

Chinese New Year for Kids to Enjoy

Planning Chinese New Year for kids is so much fun! I’m not of Chinese or Asian decent but I love traveling and learning about other cultures. “Chinese New year” isn't a party theme, but a cultural tradition. I am very aware of the potential issue and try to learn from people of each culture. It's important to be sensitive but also learn about the real meanings, not just stereotypes.

So I researched Lunar New Year and talked with a Chinese girlfriend about ways to celebrate with my own family. ⁣Celebrating brings the human family closer.

When celebrating another culture it’s a great idea to go to the source and ask. Cultural appropriation is commonplace and we often have no idea why we’re celebrating {Cinco de Mayo anyone?} and what significance it has. To properly honor a place and it’s people it’s a great idea to dig a little bit. ⁣

As a family we explored Chinese culture, food, and traditions. ⁣⁣ We made a few mistakes but thoroughly enjoyed our foray into the Chinese Spring Festival!

Chinese new year placesetting for kids
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Lunar New Year

So what are we supposed to call this celebration? In China they don't call it Chinese New Year, it's actually referred to as Spring Festival, even though it's celebrated in Winter.

Many people refer to the Lunar New Year because the dates of the celebration follow the phases of the moon. New Years is a 15 day celebration starting on the first new moon between January 21 and February 20th. Although Lunar New Year is celebrated widely in many East Asian countries there are also regions that celebrate their Lunar New Year on a different calendar so the dates might not always line up.

The celebration we are most familiar with comes from the Chinese traditions and gained the name “Chinese New Year” from this heavy influence.

Year of The…..

Year of the Ox cutouts for Chinese New Year
Year of the Ox signs

Every year has a particular Chinese zodiac sign associated with it. You can find the sign for each year below:

  • Rat: 2020
  • Ox: 2021
  • Tiger: 2022
  • Rabbit: 2023
  • Dragon: 2024
  • Snake: 2025
  • Horse: 2026
  • Goat: 2027
  • Monkey: 2028
  • Rooster: 2029
  • Dog: 2030
  • Pig: 2031

Year of the TIGER

For the Year of the Tiger {2022} I found some darling little red envelopes for the traditional gift of money for children.

Lunar New Year Decorations

Paper chains and lantern for Lunar New year celebration

The place to start is neutral decor that'll work with any zodiac year, allowing you to use it again and again. There are a couple of motifs that show up every year and make a great foundation:

  • Lanterns
  • Dragons
  • Red signs
  • Coins
  • Red envelopes
  • Red clothing
  • Dumplings

Chinese Lanterns

Chinese new year table for kids

Use red and gold as your base and build from there. Hang a lantern from your light fixture with a few fun pieces of tassel decor. Don't forget your local Chinese grocery store. The Chinatown Supermarket in Salt Lake City is a treasure trove of amazing options. But you can still order some fun items online too.

  • Hanging lanterns and tassels: Chinatown Supermarket, SLC
  • Online lantern options from Oriental Trading and Amazon
  • Chinese replica coins: Oriental Trading Co.
Paper lanterns made by kids for Chinese New year table

You can also have your kids create decorations like these simple paper lanterns for the centerpiece. They're a great way to involve the family and teach your kids about the Chinese culture.

You can get the video tutorial to make your own Chinese Lanterns here. {coming soon}

Chinese Dragons

Hanging paper dragon for Chinese New Year

Don't forget the dragons! The Dragon Dance is a tradition where many dancers hold a huge dragon a loft and wind through the street to music. A dragon hanging over the kitchen island mimics the magic of the floating dragon perfectly.

Red Signs

You want to place the red signs by the front door with sayings like these:

Chinese new year sign
Safety and Fortune
Chinese new year sign
Good Luck

Chinese New Year Place Setting

Chinese inspired place setting for Chinese New Year dinner

Set a fun place setting for everyone. But no silverware is allowed at this dinner. Encourage everyone to try their chopsticks and have a few chopstick helpers available for anyone that might need them.

Place setting on Chinese New Table for kids

Another great project for the kids are these origami lanterns. After folding you can paint them in red and gold to match the decor. You don't want to leave them WHITE, as white is associated with death and funerals in China.

Use them as place cards by adding names to each one. You can find the simple video instructions here. {coming soon}

Printable passport and boarding passes for family adventures
If you love learning more about other countries too, you can download our free printable passport to get you started on your way.

Chinese New Year Menu Ideas

Decaffeinated green tea at Chinese New Year for Kids

Drink your green tea! We chose decaffeinated tea for the family and love it with a little fresh mint and some honey which we were introduced to during our virtual visit to Morocco. So while mint is NOT a Chinese tradition, you can let it slide as long as you explain it to the kids.

Chinese New Year Pork

Wok filled with pork and broccoli stir fry for Chinese new year

For dinner. Choose PORK. Tradition has it that pigs root forward with their snouts and that forward movement is auspicious for a year of good fortune. Cook your pork up with some vegetable stir fry.

You can order take out or make it at home in a wok to be legit. Add broccoli and bamboo shoots before adding the sauce. Serve it over LONG noodles, these “longevity noodles” should be slurped whole. No cutting or breaking here. The longer the noodles, the longer your life is supposed to be.

Traditionally it would be a pork meatball or spare ribs if that's more your style.

Chinese Dumplings

Pork dumplings for Chinese New Year dinner

Dumplings are a must have. Again, use pork. There are many kinds of dumplings and some of them mean different things. But you can choose between fried potstickers and the steamed dim sum buns. Either way they're gonna be delicious! I'd recommend ordering out for these ones.

I found several wonderful dumpling options at our local Chinatown Supermarket in Salt Lake City.

Chinese New Year Desserts

Chinese and Japanese desserts for Lunar New Year

Dessert was a little tougher to know what was traditionally Chinese and what was not, even at the Chinatown Market. SO many different Asain countries and cultures are represented so I'll help break it down a little bit:

Egg tarts and red bean popsicles ARE very Chinese. Unsure of whether the kids would enjoy the red bean I cut each popsicle into 3 pieces and served in on the plate. Happily, they all enjoyed it and promptly ate the rest of the popsicles whole.

Traditional Spring Festival treats also include:

  • NIÁN GĀO (New Year Cake) – rice cakes
  • TĀNGYUÁN (Sweet Rice Balls) – similar to Japanese mochi
  • Tangerines

I wasn't able to find the TĀNGYUÁN or maybe I just don't know what to look for! But I was able to find mochi balls though. So even though they are a Japanese treat we talked about how the Chinese sweet rice balls would taste a little different as they are fried and served in broth or syrup.

Chinese inspired place setting for Chinese New Year dinner

I hope you gathered a few ideas you can incorporate into a Chinese New Year for kids celebration. There is so much to learn about the rich history and cultural traditions and we look forward to learning a little more each year.

Too often we throw a party and turn a culture into a “theme” that's cute and fun without knowing what or why we are doing it. So instead of NOT celebrating because you don't know how, reach out. Find a friend you can celebrate WITH and learn from too. And if cultural appropriation bothers you, SHARE your culture, the proper culture, with others so they can understand too.

If you have a Lunar New Year celebration, I'd love to hear about it in the comments below. And if you share photos, I want to see it too! Please tag us @partieswithacause on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. We love celebrating all your hard work! 

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Celebrate Chinese New Year as a family

More Places to Explore with Kids Around the World

Virtual travel guide for families to Japan

Since COVID began and trips were cancelled my family has virtually traveled to 9 different countries and the results have been amazing. My kids ask thoughtful questions. We try new and unusual foods. We explore virtual tours so I created a free printable passport to record our adventures and would love to have your family join us too!

Each time we are exposed to other people, religions, customs, and cultures I believe we grow in empathy and understanding of the human race. It’s this kind of celebration that brings us closer together. Where would you like to visit with your family?⁣

Until next time my friend! Signature and photo

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Gingerbread houses in a row as table runner centerpiece for a Christmas Cookie Exchange Party I’m Bri of Parties With A Cause. I’m a mother to three crazy awesome kids, interior designer, & party planning junky. I love reading, globe trotting, and frozen yogurt. And I’m elevating the party experience one cause at a time! Read More

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