5 alternative ways to celebrate Chinese New Year

We all do the same things every Lunar New Year. We hop from house to house, visiting relatives, giving out red packets, and catching up over a massive reunion dinner. It’s become a little too routine, and feels more like an annual chore than a time to make merry.

This year, why not switch things up and try something new with the kids? Here are five ways to spruce up your Chinese New Year celebrations with alternative activities the whole family can enjoy.

1. Bake Chinese New Year goodies together
Baking is a great way to let your kids play and learn about how it is made. Instead of buying Chinese New Year goodies, why not make them yourself? One of the easiest snacks to make are peanut cookies. All you need to do is grind three cups of roasted peanuts, and mix in three cups of all-purpose flour, one cup of sugar, a pinch of salt, and one-and-a-half cups of melted butter to create a dough. Shape the dough into little balls, and place them on a baking tray. Glaze the top of each ball with a coat of egg wash, then pop the tray into the oven and bake at 190°C for 20 minutes.

Prosperity cakes are also simple to make. Add three quarters of a cup of hot water to half a cup of brown sugar, and let it cool. Next, slowly mix in a cup of white rice flour, and a teaspoon of baking powder and water, before pouring the batter into paper cups. To recreate the classic rainbow assortment, add food colouring to each cup, and steam for 15 minutes.

2. Try your hand at Chinese calligraphy
An elegant, ancient art form that dates back to the 16th century BC, Chinese calligraphy is a strikingly therapeutic exercise in patience, dexterity and discipline. It benefits both the young and old, inspires better penmanship, and sparks a deeper appreciation of the Chinese language. Pick up a set of brushes, a pot of black ink, and some calligraphy paper to get started on your journey to master each stroke. A fitting goal to work towards is to create your own Chinese New Year couplets, which leads into the next activity.

3. Decorate the house with DIY art projects
Scour through Pinterest with your family for the most inventive Chinese New Year art projects to embark on. Your little ones can express their creativity by turning paper plates into goldfish, craft sheets into lanterns, toilet rolls into firecrackers, and matchsticks into murals. Just make sure that sharp objects like scissors and pen knives are kept at bay or used with supervision. Once you’re done, you can decide on where to display the artworks as a family too.

4. Choreograph your own lion dance
Every year, the familiar sound of drums and cymbals signals the rousing performance of a lion dance troupe. It’s a feat that requires a great deal of coordination, but is hugely enjoyable when you try to learn it at home. Take it a step further and choreograph your own routine, improvising with a cardboard box as the head of the lion, and a bed sheet for the body. Bring your family closer together literally, while having fun.

5. Recreate the story of Nian
Have your children ever asked how Chinese New Year came to be? This is the perfect time to teach them about the origins of this holiday. Legend has it that a demon by the name of Nian would terrorise a village in China at the beginning of each year, plundering crops and devouring children. When the villagers learnt that it was afraid of fire, loud sounds, and the colour red, they hatched a plan to chase it away with boisterous displays of firecrackers, red signs, and a lion dance with loud percussions. Thus, the Lunar New Year was born. Make a day out of building props and costumes, and improvising lines to recreate this story. If you’re hosting a big family gathering at home, you can create a proper skit out of this as well.

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