Celebrating Chinese New Year In a Multicultural Family
About Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival, is around the corner. Sixteen days long Chinese New Year is considered the most important celebration in Taiwan. Festival begins from New Year’s Eve to the Lantern Festival. Some families will start the preparations five to seven days before Chinese New Year’s Eve.
I grew up in Taiwan before moving to Spain (Why Do We Move To Spain?), and the Chinese New Year is considered the most important event of the year for me as well. It is time for families to be together, similar to Christmas in Western countries.
There are many traditions people follow each year, and this is how we celebrate Chinese New Year in Taiwan.
Pre-Chinese New Year Preparation
Most people in Taiwan to carry out a thorough cleaning of their house, representing sweeping away the bad luck, bid farewell to the old year, and get ready to welcome in the New Year with a clean environment.
One week before the Chinese New Year’s eve, my mother busy shopping for The New Year. She prepares reunion dinner on Chinese New Year’s Eve for four generations of family members, with the total number of fifteen adults and several children every year. As well as fruits, flowers, decorations, snacks, and new clothes; There is a tradition of wearing new clothes during the New Year; it symbolizes a fresh start. Therefore, everything you wear ideally is all new.
Chinese New Year’s Eve
My family wakes up early in the morning on New Year’s Eve. It is a tradition that every family members meet at the ancestral shrine; my family honors the ancestors before the Spring Festival every year, the purpose is both to remember previous generations and to ensure the continuation of the family line.
Most people begin to put up the decorations like Spring Couplets on New Year’s Eve as well, which expresses happiness and hope for the coming year. The couplets vary in content and style and can be poetic and calligraphic art.
Later that afternoon, family members will start to arrive at their parents’ home to join the reunion dinner. Reunion dinner is one of the significant events during the Chinese New Year. Many people have gone through traffic and travel for a long distance to make it for this dinner.
Besides a table of delicious food prepared by the mother, the family spends quality time watching Chinese New Year TV show, playing card games or mahjong. One of the major activities is the elderly will begin to hand out a red envelope enclosed with lucky money to the junior family members, blessing them for a good year to come.
Chinese New Year Celebration
On the first day of New Year, we put on new clothes and preferably in red. We greet “gongxifacai” (恭喜發財） to people you see, wishing each other good luck and happiness in the New Year.
Many Taiwanese will also visit temples. Some arrive at temples shortly after midnight to be the first prayers of the new year. However, most people wait until the next day to pack into the crowded temples to thank god for their blessing in the past year and to pray for good fortune throughout the upcoming year. Before moving to Spain, this is one of the activities I will join my family as well.
As a cross-culture parent, it gives us a new perspective on how we should celebrate and pass on the tradition to our children. Our main goal is to balance tradition with modernity; we build our cultures and celebrate in our way. Moving to Spain certainly makes the celebration more challenging, and most of our family members are overseas. (Related Article: The Challenge Of Staying Connected With Oversea Family) However, it does not stop us from introducing Chinese New Year to our multicultural children.
How We Celebrate Chinese New Year
Being a multilingual child, Chinese New Year is definitely tackling the Mandarin part of language learning. Research shows that by the age of three, toddlers can already learn the Chinese characters naturally, just like the other objects in daily life.
Generally, children between age 3-6 years begin to develop reading skills, though some children may be ready earlier or later than that range. However, it’s never too early to introduce the Chinese Character to multilingual toddlers.
In Taiwan, children see Chinese characters everywhere! But in Barcelona, we will need to make an extra effort for our multilingual kids to expose more in Chinese characters.
Knowing simple Chinese New Year’s characters
Over the weekend, we begin to prepare for our first Chinese New Year decorations. I have cut a few 3D Chinese characters “Spring”(春), which means the Spring Festival. Most Taiwanese write the character “Spring” (春) on a beautiful red color paper and paste on the wall.
There are many ways to decorate the 3D characters, such as stickers, hand painting, and drawing. Simple art and craft activities are fun and engaging.
Arts and crafts help in the physical and social development of toddlers. I can also introduce a simple and essential character of the Chinese New Year to my multilingual children.
Paper is rather small, putting a sticker on a specific position and hand paints within an area can develop the toddler’s motor skill.
When my three-year-old toddler first sees the character, her first reactions was going for the “triangle” and “squares” area and starts to express her interest in these shapes.
Besides the character “Spring” (春) that was previously introduced over the weekend, I have also placed another Chinese Character “Ji” （吉), which means good luck, on kids’ desk. “Ji” is also one of the most used characters during the Chinese New Year, literally from the street decorations to television programs to red envelope design.
Before introducing”Ji” (吉) character to the children, I have added the rainbow and trees on the drawing paper. By incorporating elements that the children are recently interested in can attract their visual attention.
Leave the character on children’s desk as long as possible, allowing them to draw when they wish, and let their creativity to flourish. Meanwhile, repeating see help to develop memory.
Over the course of two weeks of Chinese New Year, there are many ways to design a few activities to introduce this important event to our multicultural children. Here are some of the suggestions: