I have no personal experiences with celebrating Chinese New Year other than what we've been doing at Woodland Park for the past 9 years. There are always a few of our families who celebrate with special food at home or a trip to Chinatown for a lion dance or a dragon parade, although the heavy use of firecrackers often keeps many of them away until the kids are a little older. But mostly we're in the position of reading about it in books, then executing our celebration the way we see fit, which makes it a perfect holiday for preschool.
I've already written about some of the books we rely on, most of which seem to come from the brilliant author/illustrator Demi, such as The Boy Who Painted Dragons, Happy, Happy Chinese New Year!, and Demi's Dragons and Fantastic Creatures. I also read Steven Chin's Dragon Parade: A Chinese New Year Story to the older kids. I love how it ties in the wave of Chinese immigration to the US during the 1800's. And Karen Chinn's Sam And The Lucky Money has become a standard, with its message of compassion for those less "lucky" than us. There are others we use on a kind of ad hoc basis, but it's largely from these sources that we've cobbled together a week or two of rice, chopsticks, and leisees (red envelopes in which children receive "lucky" money) in the sensory table, painting dragons, creating good luck banners, generally decorating and cleaning, and, naturally, making lots of noise with our percussion instruments (in lieu of firecrackers).
Several years ago, the families gave me a gift certificate to Archie McPhee
("Slightly less disappointing than other companies") as a holiday
present and this lion head is what I bought with it.
And then there is always building our classroom dragon. Last year's was made mostly from tape, but since tape fever really hasn't hit the classroom this year, we went a different direction.
We started with the old preschool standby of using these vintage turntables to spin out dozens of swirly paper plate dragon body parts.
We then attached them all together with brads (metal paper fasteners).
This all took part over the course of the week, and involved both our 3-5 and Pre-3 classes. We made a very, very long dragon body. When we unfurled it, it started on one side of the classroom . . .
. . . and ran all the way to the other . . .
. . . then turned back again. Isak counted 66 body parts in all and he's pretty reliable about those kinds of things.
The advantage of this year's dragon over last years, was that I was pretty sure we could safely pick it up and carry it around for our own dragon parade. Last year's tape dragon was beautiful, but wound up heavy and awkward, so we just hung it up on the wall. My plan was to wear our dragon head (really a lion head, but we use it for both purposes) and have the kids carry the body along behind me. But first we had to try out the dragon head for ourselves.
We put it on and bounced up and down to the cacophony of drums, bells and other instruments echoing off the walls of our room.
It's a whole new world from inside of there.
And being inside of the lion/dragon gave us new ways to interact with our friends.
Meanwhile, smaller groups of our friends were breaking off to visit professional tabla player Chaz Hastings in our gym where he entertained and enlightened them with his masterful drumming and storytelling.
Finally, we got to our dragon parade itself. Every child chose to participate, carrying a part of our dragon body, which wound up coming apart into dozens of smaller pieces as the brads gave way under the herks and jerks of 20 pairs of hands trying to move it around. (There's a reason the real dragon paraders have to rehearse so much!)
At first we kept stopping to repair the thing, but then decide to soldier on with our dragon in many parts, moving from the gym, around our outdoor classroom, back to the indoor classroom, then one more loop around the outdoors before heading back inside. I have some repair work to do this morning so our Pre-3 class can perform their own parade today.
And then because the new year is a time to make old things new, we broke out the paint and put a fresh coat of paint on our beach hut, which is these days most often referring to as the "house boat."
Our celebration will continue into next week when we will be visited by a Chinese dance teacher and storyteller, likely bumping up against our Valentine's preparations, but that's okay, we now know that hearts and Chinese New Year's do mix.
Gung hay fat choy!