Saturday, February 09, 2013

"Xie Xie"

I've not written much this year about our preparations for Chinese New Year, which starts on Sunday (although we'll be "officially" recognizing it on Monday) because I've already written so much about it in past years and there's really not much new to our celebrations from year to year. This, of course, is part of what traditions are all about: repeating those things that have meaning for us, that tie us together as a community, and that remind us of our shared aspirations, hopes and values.

This week we've played with a sensory table full of rice, chopsticks, food cartons, red envelopes, and baskets. When we learned it was the Year of The Snake, and the Water Snake in particular, we added a few rubber snakes to the mix.

Rex, in particular, has this year enjoyed remembering the holiday, often unable to contain himself as I start to introduce an art project or piece of Chinese lore, announcing to his classmates, for instance, "We're going to make a dragon and march it around the school!"

We make our dragon scales by decorating paper plates with markers as they spin on these old turntables. In the past, we've used brass brads to connect them, but they don't hold together very well when we carry it around as part of our new year's day parade. This year we're trying bits of pipe cleaners which present their own problems, but should hold together as we carry our dragon all through the school and the outdoor classroom on Monday.

And he's right, we are making our annual dragon which I hope will be ready by Monday. We've created several hundred paper plate scales.

"We get to wear the dragon head! It's really a lion head!" And he's right about that too.

And he even remembered that "the Creative Dragon flows through your mind when you're painting!"

I'm quite impressed by how our good luck banners turned out this year. The one there on the left I purchased many years ago. I've been told it translates as "Harmony through peace." The kids really appear to have used it as inspiration, not copying actual characters, but rather in capturing the flow and energy of the lines.

We've also made paper lanterns, painted red good luck banners and dragons, read a half dozen books, played with rice, chop sticks and leisees (red envelopes) in our sensory table, cleaned the classroom, and many of the kids (coincidentally or not) have shown up with new haircuts and new clothing. Even those who've not had haircuts have informed me they've at least recently washed their hair.

We pre-drew spiral lines on construction paper as guides for the kids to follow with their scissors to make our snake decorations. It's a classic preschool craft project, one of those "just right" challenges that appeal to older preschoolers. Many of them couldn't get enough of it.

And it's not entirely true that everything is the same this year. Since this is the year of the Water Snake, we decorated our classroom with coiled construction paper snakes.

This photo really doesn't do justice to all the snakes and lanterns dangling from the ceiling. This whole week both children and parents have been stopping in the doorway to take it all in.

And something else new . . . We had a visit from Melody, a Chinese dance instructor and folklorist, who has been coming to Woodland Park for a long time now to tell us of the giant monster who cannot see us if we wear red and is frightened when we make lots of noise. Several of the kids were nervous, remembering the scary story from last year. Afterwords, they agreed that as 4 and 5-year-olds, the story wasn't nearly as frightening as they'd remembered it.

Since Valentines Day falls so close to the new year, we've been combining the holidays a bit. If you look closely, you'll see some heart shaped boxes and baskets made it into the sensory table, along with our ever-popular Love Rats.

One new thing she taught us is that Chinese children, when they awake on new years morning, go into their parents' bedroom, kneel on the floor beside the bed, then bow three times, touching their foreheads to the floor, thanking and honoring their parents three times, "Xie xie, xie xie, xie xie." (Sounds like: Shieh shieh)

Each of our classes have practiced this bowing ritual this week and I've been encouraging them to try it in their own homes on Sunday morning. There is something delightful to me about the idea of our little American children honoring their parents this way and judging by the reaction of the parents in the room as we practiced, I'm not alone in feeling this way.

So, I guess everything isn't the same, and I suppose it never is no matter how hard we try. And that too is part of all traditions.

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Melanie Cramer (Ms Melanie) said...

You may already know this, but if you tape a roll of bubble wrap to the floor in the hall, it sounds like fireworks when the parade marches over it. Gung hay fat choy!

Kerry said...

What fun--I'm going to steal that sensory table next year.

In our class, we put the paper plate dragon scales up on the wall as a huge dragon, and the one we parade with is made out of a decorated cardboard box head, draped with a long painted fabric tail. The dragons last a few years before we have to remake them.

Gung Hay Fat Choy!