Give your child a “hóng bāo” 红包 for Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year started recently and the celebration goes on for about a week. As with many holidays, children receive gifts. Typically, the gift given is a red envelope filled with coins/money.

Example of a 'hóng bāo' to give children during the Chinese New Year

These envelopes are called “hóng bāo” 红包 or red package.

hóng bāo” 红包 (‘hong’ is ‘h+awng’ with a rising tone; ‘bao’ is ‘bow’ with a high, sustained tone)

NOTE: Check out my previous post about Chinese tones for pronunciation tips.

Part of the gift is the envelope itself. I have seen beautifully adorned envelopes with buddhas, Chinese landscapes, phoenix birds, gold-embossed Chinese calligraphy, and more. Visit your local Chinese or Asian market to pick up some hóng bāo for your children during this week long celebration.

Sharing the Chinese New Year with your children is a great way to introduce Mandarin!

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Say Chinese “Happy New Year!” wishes in Mandarin and Grace Lin Craft

“Happy New Year!” Let’s welcome the year of the rabbit and learn to share good wishes in Mandarin Chinese.  Just say…

恭喜发财! Gōngxǐ fācái! (‘Gong’ is g+awng with a dropping then rising tone; ‘xi’ is “she” with a long ‘e’ and dropping and rising tone; ‘fa’ is ‘fa’ with a soft ‘a’ and dropping and rising tone; ‘cai’ is ‘ts’+'eye’ with a rising tone)

Happy Year of the Rabbit!

So, what does the year of the rabbit mean? The year of rabbit forebodes peace and tranquility.

I found a great craft to do with kids, thanks to author/illustrator Grace Lin, that really captures the spirit of the Year of the Rabbit. Click here to view detailed instructions to make an adorable “bunny lantern” in celebration of the Year of the Rabbit.

The project was designed for the Moon Festival, but adapts well to this year’s theme.

Author and illustrator Grace Lin demonstrates her bunny lantern

My daughter will celebrate her 8th birthday. I decided that this craft would be fun to do on her birthday. It combines the Chinese New Year theme (rabbit) with the cute-factor most little girls will enjoy. Have fun!

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Elections at home and in China – “Please vote for me!” by Weijun Chen

A few days ago, I registered to run for a seat on my local school board. This is a big deal because 1) it is time consuming and will require my attending long meetings during the work week, 2) our district is trying to improve its budget process, and 3) the high school principal resigned and we will soon be searching for a new superintendent.

The candidates from "Please vote for me," a Chinese documentary by Weijun Chen

On the flip side, I view this as an opportunity for change. How great would it be to hire a visionary leader who can improve educational offerings in our district? No district is perfect and I do not have a utopian view. However, I am hopeful for improvements.

In addition to thinking about my local election, I realize, on a global scale, how fortunate we are to have democratic practices in our country. (Note: New Hampshire is the land of the first presidential primay, so we take elections especially seriously!) Yes, there are major flaws with our political system, but, still, we have more freedoms than most every other country.

As most of you know, China is a one-party system and does not have open elections like the United States. Yet, one teacher in China decided to hold elections in her classroom as in order to teach her students about democracy.

I encourage you to watch this incredible documentary, “Please Vote for Me,” about democratic elections and the resulting effect on the human condition. The film is a few years old, but still available via as a free download on Netflix. Here’s a link to the documentary’s web site:

http://pleasevoteforme.org/index.html

I guarantee you will be amazed by the parents and you’ll certainly find a favorite candidate. Best of all, you will get a glimpse into modern day China. Enjoy!

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Learn about Kid’s Favorite Chinese New Year Foods

Like most cultures, major holidays are about special foods and dishes. So many delicious treats are savored during the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival. Here are some of my kids’ favorites:

My daughter practicing her chopstick skills in preparation for the Chinese New Year which begins on February 3

  • Noodles 面条 mìan tíao (‘mian’ is ‘me’ with a long ‘e’ + ‘en’ in a soft ‘e’ sharp decsending tone; ‘tiao’ is ‘tee’ with a long ‘e’+'ow’ in a rising tone) – Noodles represent longevity, therefore noodles are not cut. Instead, one slurps up a noodle for the full length of the noodle. Long life!
  • Dumplings 铰子 jìao zi (‘jiao’ is ‘gee’ +’ow’ with a sharp descending tone; ‘zi’ is ‘zuh’ with a neutral tone) – Dumplings stuffed with pork and scallions represent little pockets of yumminess. Dumplings are served steamed, fried, or in a broth. Similar in appearance to the Ming Dynasty gold ingots, dumplings represent prosperity in the year ahead. My local grocery store carries Joyce Chen dumplings which are pretty good for an Americanized take on a Chinese favorite.
  • Oranges and tangerines 橘子 jú zi (‘ju’ is ‘j’+'oo’ long ‘o’ with rising tone; ‘zi’ is ‘zuh’ with a neutral tone) – Oranges and tangerines represent luck and wealth.

Click here to hear pronunciations of all these food words.

There are many other foods served during the Chinese New Year (like sticky rice cake, fish, etc.). This is an opportune time to venture to local Chinese restaurants and see what regional specialties may be on the menu. Expand your child’s palate and your own!

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Suggested book – “Bringing in the New Year” by Grace Lin

As the Chinese New Year approaches (February 3, 2011), I will be reading a favorite children’s book by Grace Lin titled Bringing in the New Year.

"Bringing in the New Year" by Grace Lin

The story is about how a family celebrates the week long Chinese holiday, also referred to as the Spring Festival or Lunar New Year. The book is full of vibrant pictures of the items used to celebrate: firecrackers, lanterns, hong bao (red envelopes), delicious foods, and more.

This story is PERFECT to read to a young child to teach about this wonderful, Chinese holiday. I certainly will be reading this to my children to mark the Chinese New Year.

Click here to order this book via Amazon. I will receive a referral credit if you purchase this book after accessing it via this link. Thank-you! 谢谢!Xìe xìe nǐ!

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