Lunar New Year is here, and it’s time to celebrate with some books!
But first, let’s learn a little bit more about Lunar New Year. What is it, and how is it celebrated?
Lunar New Year is based on the lunar calendar as opposed to the Gregorian calendar (or the solar calendar) that we typically follow during the year.
Lunar New Year is celebrated with the new moon — sometime between the end of January and the end of February. To prepare for the holiday, families practice certain traditions like cleaning their home, buying food to prepare special new year foods (like long life noodles and nian gao, a sweet rice cake), and purchasing red envelopes to put lucky money in, often given to children.
The celebration lasts for 15 days and is filled with firecrackers, parades, feasts, and displays of traditional art and culture.
Each year is assigned a zodiac animal. 2022 is the Year of the Tiger. What personality traits do you think of when you think of a tiger? Perhaps you think about traits of power, passion, adventure, and a general fieriness.
In addition to the traditional festivities that take place during the Lunar New Year, you can mark the occasion by reading books about Chinese traditions. We have a few recommendations, and we hope you enjoy these books as much as we do.
Happy reading and Happy Lunar New Year!
Books to Read to Celebrate the Lunar New Year
Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chinn, illus. by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu – Sam can hardly wait to go shopping with his mom. It’s Chinese New Year’s day and his grandparents have given him the traditional gift of lucky money–red envelopes called leisees (lay-sees). But when Sam realizes that his grandparents’ gift is not enough to get the things he wants, his excitement turns to disappointment. Even though his mother reminds him that he should appreciate the gift, Sam is not convinced — until a surprise encounter with a stranger.
Ten Blocks to the Big Wok by Ying-Hwa Hu – As Mia and her uncle Eddie travel the ten blocks from their apartment to the Big Wok restaurant, Mia spies one giant panda ride, two lion statues, three swimming turtles, four bonsai trees, five tai chi practitioners … There are so many things to see in Chinatown! And when they reach the Big Wok, they find ten yummy dim sum dishes to eat. But what route should they take back home? This charming bilingual English/Mandarin counting book uses a stroll through Chinatown to introduce readers to the numbers one through ten in Chinese … and will leave you hungry besides!
The Wishing Tree by Roseanne Thong, illus. by Connie McLennan – Every Lunar New Year, Ming and his grandmother visited the Wishing Tree. Its branches were covered with wishes, each written on red and yellow paper fluttering in the breeze, secured by the weight of an orange. Grandmother warned him to wish carefully, and sure enough, Ming’s wishes always seemed to come true. But one year—when Ming made the most important wish of his life—the tree let him down. The Wishing Tree is about the excitement of making wishes, the anticipation over waiting for them to come true and the futility of making unrealistic ones. It is also about the love between a boy and his grandmother, and the realization that sometimes, we already possess the most important things in life.
D is for Doufu: An Alphabet of Chinese Culture by Maywan Shen Krach, illus. by Hongbin Zhang – This vital book introduces readers to Chinese culture, beliefs, and legends in today’s context. It will help to narrow the cultural and philosophical gap between Chinese and Westerners. “D is for Doufu” explores the meanings of 23 Chinese words and phrases while providing an interesting historical and cultural background. Readers from all cultures are invited to experience the wealth of Chinese tradition as the alphabet is used to journey through five thousand years of Chinese history and relate ancient concepts to the modern western world.
The Day the Dragon Danced by Kay Haugaard, illus. by Carolyn Reed Barritt – Sugar and her Grandma are going to the Chinese New Year’s Day parade, but Grandma is skeptical about New Year’s in February and scary dragons. Sugar has learned all about what to expect from her teacher Miss Peng, though, and is more than ready to try dragon beard’s candy and watch her daddy dance in the New Year’s dragon. Finally, after all the other floats drive by, the huge red and gold dragon pokes his head around the corner and dances down the street. Sugar tries to remember which shoes are her daddy’s, and realizes the dragon isn’t dancing so well… Sugar’s quick thinking saves the day and the dragon’s dance, and everyone in the community is ready to celebrate the new lunar year.
Be sure to also check out our Chinese and Lunar New Year Celebrations: Books & Resource Guide for Teachers!