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Eva wong nava I love Chinese new year

Guest Post: Eva Wong Nava

Author of I Love Chinese New Year

Festival Books

Young children love festivals! And what better way than have them read about all sorts of festivals through books?

Eva wong navaAbout the Chinese New Year Festival

The Chinese New Year is celebrated by over a billion people world-wide every year. The practices and rituals around the celebration have remained similar since it was first celebrated more than 3,500 years ago during China’s Shang dynasty (1600-1046 BCE).

The first day of the year falls on a different day each year. The Chinese New Year occurs on a new moon annually between the end of January and mid-February. The Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar, one that follows the cycle of the moon, unlike the Gregorian one which is a solar calendar and one that everyone in the world follows. Ordinarily, the Chinese have been following the Gregorian calendar since 1911, but not when it comes to celebrating the first day of the lunar year and other traditions, like the mid-Autumn festival.  

The festival is known by several other names: Spring Festival (specifically in China and Taiwan), Lunar New Year (generally all over the world). In Southeast Asia, where there is a large population of Chinese immigrants, who have been there as early as the 1500s, it is known as the Chinese New Year, or simply new year. In Vietnam, it is called Tet and in Korea, Seollal.

The Great Race

How time was invented in China has been mythologised and retold in a tale known as the Great Race. It’s because of this race that each new year is presided over by an animal. There are twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac. The Chinese diaspora, known also as the global majority, will be ringing in the Year of the Rabbit on 22nd January 2023. The rabbit is the fourth and the luckiest animal in the zodiac.

Each animal has their special characteristics or special powers. The rabbit is known to be gentle with a high EQ. Parents in China, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, Korea and Vietnam plan their families around this set of twelve animals. A Dragon child is energetic and charming. One born in the Year of Dog is loyal and generous.

Family Traditions

book for Chinese new year
Photo credit: Ee Ling Goh

In I LOVE CHINESE NEW YEAR, Mai-Anne, a six-year old girl, celebrates the festival with her family. She helps to clean and decorate the house before the new year and waits impatiently for her Nai Nai (her paternal grandmother) to arrive for the most important meal of the year — the Reunion Dinner. It starts on the night of the eve when families reunite to eat. The young and old will stay up way after dinner to ring in the year. There will be firecrackers popping and in some villages in ancient days, a dragon dance will take place.

Every dish that is placed on the table during the Reunion meal is a lucky dish. There will be fish for abundance, jiaozi (dumplings) for prosperity, a whole chicken for unity, and noodles for longevity.

Symbols at Chinese New Year

The Chinese culture and heritage thrive on symbolisms and their meanings. There is plenty of word play or punning since a character may be written differently but could sound similar when spoken (homophones), like nian gao, for example. Nian gao (年糕 ) is a sticky rice dessert, eaten during the new year celebration. Nian () means year in Mandarin, but it sounds very much like sticky (); gao ( ) means high, but when said, it also sounds like cake (). So when we eat nian gao, we are hoping to climb higher and higher up the ladder of success, or for our children to grow older and bigger each year. The Chinese are aspirational people.

During the Chinese New Year, you’ll see plenty of red. Red is the colour of auspiciousness. It symbolises good luck. Gold is also a lucky colour because it is the hue of ancient Chinese coins called ingots. Two tangerines or mandarins are exchanged between friends and family during the first day of the year because this fruit symbolises wealth. The Chinese believe that what you give, you get. So in exchange of red envelopes, known as hongbao (红包), containing money, along with two tangerines, you’re giving and receiving good luck.

Every Chinese family sweeps and prepares their home for the new year. This has to be done at least a week before the new year. The symbolism behind this is the belief that all the unlucky things in the past year are swept away to make room for auspicious tidings in the new year. And all good things are symbolised by the character fu (). Fu means happiness, but it also means wealth. When the character is upside down, it symbolises that Wealth has already entered the door. Wealth is personified by Caishen (财神), or the God of Wealth.

Paying Homage in I Love Chinese New Year

I love nested narratives, so I’ve used this literary device to pay homage to the oral storytelling tradition of ancient China: Mai-Anne’s Nai Nai retells the story of the Great Race to ring in the new year.

You’ll see that Nai Nai is the family dragon when she performs the Dragon Dance for the whole family. Here, I pay homage to strong Asian women who hold up half the sky.

I LOVE CHINESE NEW YEAR is part of Scholastic UK’s series of festival books. There’s one for Eid, Diwali and Christmas.



I Love Chinese New YearI Love Chinese New Year is available to purchase online from Amazon or from

For more book ideas, see our Chinese New Year booklist.

Where next?
> Visit our Reading for Pleasure Hub
> Browse our Topic Booklists
> View our printable year group booklists.
> See our Books of the Month.

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