Unlock the magic of lunar new year with stories in the classroom.

Unlock the Magic of Teaching with Lunar New Year Stories in the Classroom

Looking for a way to add some special sparkle to your classroom this Lunar New Year? Incorporating Lunar New Year stories will cultivate enthusiasm in your students for exploring culture and help them recognise the unique traditions associated with this holiday. Plus, sharing these stories with students from all backgrounds provides an appreciation for other perspectives and encourages global-mindedness.

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Diving into the Traditions of Lunar New Year

The Lunar New Year signifies the start of a new year per the lunar calendar and is a cherished festival in several Asian cultures. 

The Lunar New Year involves fascinating traditions such as family reunions, festive decorations, and exchanging red envelopes containing money. These customs represent prosperity, unity, and good luck.

Comprehending its significance enhances cultural understanding and inclusivity in the classroom. You can use picture books to discuss Lunar New Year in different countries and how they reflect and shape cultural values.

An image of a chinese lion mask.

Using Lunar New Year Stories in the Classroom

Picture books offer a vibrant and engaging way to present information about the Lunar New Year traditions, food, and festivities. 

The Lunar New Year picture books below help your students learn about the history and traditions and how it is celebrated worldwide. They illustrate the cultural significance of the celebration and the importance of family at this time.

Some stories use the name Chinese New Year and others Lunar New Year. The latter refers to the celebration in countries other than China. While the celebrations have the same meaning, different countries celebrate in their own unique ways. 

Integrating Lunar New Year stories in the classroom complements other activities and contributes to capturing the festive spirit of the holiday.

Challenges in Teaching about Lunar New Year

Teaching about Lunar New Year can present difficulties due to intricate cultural nuances and the complexity of the lunar calendar. Picture books simplify these concepts, rendering them more accessible to students.

A group of asian children reading books in a library.

Questions to Pair with Lunar New Year Stories

Consider using these questions to spark classroom discussions when reading Lunar New Year picture books.

  • How do the characters celebrate the Lunar New Year?
  • What are some Lunar New Year traditions featured in the book?
  • How do the characters prepare for the Lunar New Year?
  • What are some special dishes mentioned in the book that are prepared for Lunar New Year?
  • Can you spot any symbols or colours significant to the Lunar New Year? What do they represent?
  • What is the importance of family reunions during the Lunar New Year?
  • Can you identify any unique Lunar New Year customs from different cultures?
  • What is the significance of the red envelopes exchanged during Lunar New Year?
  • How do the characters in the book decorate their homes?
  • What special clothes do the characters in the book wear?
  • How do the characters wish each other a happy new year?
  • Can you find any reference to the animal zodiac in the book? What is the significance of the zodiac?

Lunar New Year Stories

Angel in Beijing by Belle Yang

A young girl finds a lost cat in Beijing on New Year’s Eve. During the Dragon Boat Festival, the cat disappears so the girl embarks on a journey through different parts of the city in search of her new friend.

Angel in Beijing promotes discussions on companionship, exploration, and Chinese traditions and festivals.

Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin

A Chinese-American family prepare for the Lunar New Year, from sweeping out the old year to hanging lanterns for the upcoming celebrations, culminating in a joyful parade to welcome the New Year.

Bringing in the New Year promotes discussions on family unity and shared responsibilities, Lunar New Year customs and celebrations, and sweeping out the old year to welcome the new one, symbolising a fresh start.

Cat and Rat: The Legend of the Chinese Zodiac by Ed Young

Cat and Rat devise a plan to win when a race is held to decide the order of the zodiac animals. However, Rat betrays Cat, resulting in Cat missing out on being a part of the zodiac, explaining why cats and rats are enemies.

Cat and Rat: The Legend of the Chinese Zodiac inspires discussions on betrayal, temptation, integrity, competition, loyalty and relationship skills.

China's Child by Evi Triantafyllides

Mei Ling longs for a baby brother, which is impossible under China’s one-child policy. Determined, she researches how to create her own brother during Lunar New Year. Just as her plan failed, the government changed the one-child rule and Mei Ling does everything she can to be the perfect sister for her new sibling.

Read China’s Children to inspire discussion on hope, determination, resilience, perspective, longing, societal rules, and the symbolism of Lunar New Year.

Chinese New Year Colors by Richard Lo

Vivid illustrations introduce colours, objects and traditions integral to Chinese New Year celebrations. Each page reveals a different colour, from hóng (red), the colour of explosive firecrackers, to jīn (gold), the hue of lucky coins. 

Chinese New Year Colors, a bilingual book, introduces one of the largest festivals in the world and inspires discussions on cultural traditions and the symbolism of colours.

Chloe’s Lunar New Year by Lily LaMotte

As the New Year draws near, Chloe and her family engage in various preparations: buying new shoes, cleaning the house, and laying out good-luck foods. Among the festive preparations, Chloe remembers loved ones who cannot join the celebration.

Chloe’s Lunar New Year promotes discussions on Lunar New Year traditions, togetherness, preparation for new beginnings and remembering loved ones during festive times.

Chopsticks by Jon Berkeley

In Hong Kong, a tiny grey mouse named Chopsticks lives in a floating restaurant. On a New Year’s night, Chopsticks uses magic to bring a carved wooden dragon to life. They embark on an exciting high-flying adventure during the full moon of Chinese New Year.

Chopsticks promotes discussions on unlikely friendships, adventures, magic of belief and Chinese New Year.

Dragon Dancer by Joyce Chng

Yao embarks on a magical journey to usher in the Chinese New Year. When he wakes Shen Long, the ancient sky dragon, from his year-long sleep, Yao starts an adventure to drive away bad luck and bring good fortune for the coming year.

Dragon Dancer promotes discussions on cultural traditions, courage, hope, and the significance of rites and rituals.

Friends Are Friends, Forever by Dane Liu

On Chinese New Year’s Eve, Dandan and her best friend, Yueyue, share the tradition of making red snowflakes. With a spool of red thread and red paper gifted by Yueyue, Dandan finds solace and continuity in her new home.

Friends Are Friends, Forever explores themes of immigration, adaptability, and the value of friendships and the traditions of the Lunar New Year.

A Gift by Yong Chen

Amy receives a surprise Chinese New Year gift from her aunt and uncles in China. The parcel contains a carved jade pendant shaped like a dragon. The gift fills Amy with joy and connects her to her family’s traditions even though they’re far away.

A Gift promotes discussions on connecting to our cultural heritage, family bonds and the joy of giving and receiving gifts.

Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas by Natasha Yim

Goldy Luck’s mother sends her to visit the neighbouring pandas with turnip cakes. The pandas find a sleeping Goldy Luck on their return home. Embarrassed, she runs home but returns to Chan’s home to apologise and clean up her mess.

Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas promotes discussions on responsibility, consequences of actions, Lunar New Year customs, forgiveness, and making amends.

The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac by Christopher Corr

The Jade Emperor holds a race to name each year after the first twelve animals to cross the river. The animals show their unique strengths and strategies, leading to the creation of the Chinese Zodiac.

The Great Race explores competition, cunning, the consequences of our actions and how ambition-driven decisions impact relationships.

Grumpy New Year by Katrina Moore

Daisy visits China for Lunar New Year with her Yeh-Yeh (grandfather). She gets grumpy due to fatigue and anticipation. Daisy worries her grumpiness might affect the celebrations but learns that spending time with loved ones is what matters.

Grumpy New Year promotes discussions on family bonds, Lunar New Year traditions, anticipation, managing emotions and self-management.

How to Catch a Dragon by Adam Wallace

During Chinese New Year, a group of children embark on an exciting journey to catch a wily dragon that winds through the streets of China. This dragon isn’t just any creature; it’s a symbol of good luck.

How to Catch a Dragon promotes discussions on perseverance, creative thinking, and celebrating cultural traditions like Chinese New Year.

My First Chinese New Year by Karen Katz

A young girl learns the customs and traditions of Chinese New Year for the first time. She experiences the preparation and celebration of the festival, from cleaning the house to receiving red envelopes.

My First Chinese New Year promotes discussions on Chinese New Year traditions, family rituals and the joy of new experiences.

New Clothes for New Year's Day by Hyun-Joo Bae

In Korea, the new year means the start of everything new. A young girl is excited to wear a new and special hanbok made by her mother and prepares to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

New Clothes for New Year’s Day promotes discussions on cultural pride, traditional clothing, self-reliance, independence and the joy of celebrations.

New Year by Mei Zihan

A father spends the Lunar New Year without his daughter, who has moved to a different country for the first time. He misses her deeply but also understands the importance of her personal growth. 

New Year is set during the Lunar New Year celebrations and captures the theme of letting go, personal growth, and the strength of family bonds, even when separated by distance.

A New Year's Reunion by Li-Qiong Yu

When Maomao’s father visits during Lunar New Year, the family prepares sticky rice balls with hidden coins. She is devastated when she loses her coin. It is found in time for Maomao to give it to her father as they say goodbye.

A New Year’s Reunion promotes discussions on family reunions, longing and anticipation, the observance of the Chinese New Year, and the value of time.

Nian, The Chinese New Year Dragon by Virginia Loh-Hagan

A magical warrior’s spell forces Nian, a fearsome dragon, underground. But with the spell’s weakening each spring, Nian emerges to terrorise Mei’s village, and it is this young girl’s destiny to defeat it.

Nian, The Chinese New Year Dragon promotes discussions on courage, the origins of Chinese New Year and its associated customs, resilience, persistence, and the triumph of good over evil.

Playing with Lanterns by Yage Wang

Zhao Di celebrates the Lunar New Year in rural northern China. Over 15 days, she and her friends venture out each night to play with their paper lanterns.

Playing with Lanterns promotes discussions on the Lunar New Year and its unique practices, the joy and excitement of celebrations and the passing of time.

The Race for the Chinese Zodiac by Gabrielle Wang

During a race to name the years of the Chinese Zodiac, thirteen animals find different ways to win. Initially, Cat and Rat work together only for Rat to push Cat into the water, resulting in no Year of the Cat.

The Race for the Chinese Zodiac promotes discussions on competition, cunning and creative thinking, integrity, perseverance and the Chinese zodiac and its origins.

Red is a Dragon: A Book of Colors by Roseanne Thong

A Chinese-American girl observes and identifies different colours in her surroundings. From the red dragon in a parade to the green leaves of a bamboo tree, the book offers a rainbow of experiences related to her Chinese heritage.

Red is a Dragon promotes discussions on colour recognition, cultural diversity and appreciating beauty in ordinary things.

Ruby's Chinese New Year by Vickie Lee

Ruby embarks on an adventure to deliver a special gift to her grandmother for Chinese New Year. Along her journey, she encounters all twelve Chinese zodiac animals, each lending a helping hand.

Ruby’s Chinese New Year promotes discussions on family bonds, the spirit of giving, cultural traditions like Chinese New Year and the Chinese zodiac and its characteristics.

The Runaway Wok: A Chinese New Year Tale by Ying Chang Compestine

During Chinese New Year, a young boy trades some eggs for a singing wok at the market. The wok hops to the greedy Li family, filling itself with food and gold once stolen from others. The Ming family shared the fortune and food with other needy villagers.

The Runaway Wok promotes discussions on social justice, the equal distribution of wealth, generosity, and the magic of traditional festivals.

Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chinn

Sam receives four bright red envelopes, known as ‘lucky money’, for Chinese New Year. He heads to Chinatown to spend it, but when he encounters a barefoot stranger, Sam gives his lucky money to the man.

Sam and the Lucky Money promotes discussions on generosity, empathy for others, homelessness, and the true value of money.

A Sweet New Year for Ren by Michelle Sterling

Celebrate the Lunar New Year through the eyes of Ren. She wakes up excited to celebrate the new year with her family and participate in various traditions and festivities associated with the Lunar New Year.

A Sweet New Year for Ren promotes discussions on cultural traditions, family, celebration, and the joy of togetherness.

Tet Together by Alice Trinh

Tết is the most important cultural holiday in Vietnam. A Vietnamese family prepares for and celebrates the Lunar New Year by sweeping out the old year, hanging dazzling decorations, and preparing lavish meals to share.

Tet Together promotes discussions on the unique customs and traditions of Tết, collaborative efforts in preparing for Tết, sweeping out the old year and welcoming the new one.

This is Tet: Rhyming story about Lunar New Year in Vietnam by Tam Bui

The author’s childhood memories take us through the traditions and festivities of Tết, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, in a Vietnamese village.

This is Tet promotes discussions on the customs and traditions of Tết, the importance of family gatherings and the excitement and happiness of the Lunar New Year.

This Next New Year by Janet S. Wong

A Chinese-Korean family celebrate a multicultural Luna New Year. They eat Korean soup and listen to noisy firecrackers. His cousin Evelyn and best friend Glenn love the food and red money envelopes.

This Next New Year promotes discussions on cultural celebration, a hopeful and optimistic outlook, the transition from the old year to the new one, and the opportunities it brings.

Tomorrow Is New Year's Day: Seollal, a Korean Celebration of the Lunar New Year by Aram Kim

Mina is eager to celebrate Seollal, the Korean Lunar New Year. As she anticipates its arrival, she shares the customs and traditions of Seollal with her classmates.

Tomorrow Is New Year’s Day promotes discussions on the unique customs and traditions of Seollal, sharing traditions, inclusivity, and the anticipation and preparation for the Lunar New Year.

Year of the Cat by Richard Ho

Rat feels guilty for an old wrong and embarks on a journey to make amends. This journey leads to encountering the Cat, the one animal not given a year in the Chinese zodiac.

Year of the Cat promotes discussions on making amends, dealing with guilt, power dynamics, and embracing ambiguity. 

Summing Up

Teaching with Lunar New Year stories fosters literacy skills and promotes cultural awareness and inclusivity.

The vibrant illustrations and captivating narratives make learning about Lunar New Year a relatable and informative experience.

What to know about Lunar New Year? Here are a few resources to get you started.

TED-ED Talk: The myth behind the Chinese zodiac – Megan Campisi and Pen-Pen Chen

BBC Newsround: What is Chinese New Year?

Encyclopaedia Britannica: Chinese New Year

Do you use Chinese New Year and Lunar New Year stories in your classroom? 

I want to discover more Lunar New Year picture books in Asian countries. Let me know your suggestions in the comments!

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