Chinese Lunar New Year is a big deal at The New Century School. It affords numerous opportunities to practice spoken and written Mandarin, but it also presents a window into a pinnacle of Asian culture. This year, the New Year celebrations started on January 31 and will end today, February 14. At TNCS, where language-learning is the hallmark of the school’s scholastic identity, culture and customs intersect with communication to enhance language acquisition. Cultural understanding is essential to language learning. Experiencing another culture develops understanding of its relationship to its corresponding language as well as deepens the student’s appreciation of his or her native culture. Students begin to see other people’s points of view, ways of life, and contributions to the world (see TNCS’s Foreign Language Program Embraces the 5 Cs).
The benefits are, therefore, obvious, but the plain fact is, Chinese New Year is fun! (And captivated kids are primed for learning!) This year is Year of the Horse (马年 [mǎ nián]), which is part of a 12-year cycle of animals (rat, cow, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, chicken, dog and pig) comprising the Chinese zodiac. Each animal in turn interacts with the five elements: wood, metal, fire, water, and earth. This is year of the wood horse, taking over from the year of the water snake. In Chinese lore, the horse represents travel, competition, and victory and is a symbol of leadership, nobility, and freedom. Those born in the Year of the Horse (2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966, 1954, and 1942) are said to be cheerful, popular, and fun-loving. Click here for other interesting tidbits about the Year of the Horse.
School-wide, classes honored the New Year with a variety of activities. In addition to their regular Mandarin studies, elementary students learned Chinese paper cutting (剪纸) and how to make traditional Chinese New Year cake and dumplings, did special art projects, shared traditional stories, and sang songs. They performed two of their new songs at Port Discovery on Saturday, February 8th for a proud audience of parents. Xie Laoshi said, “I’m really proud of the students. They sang their songs very well!” Elementary students also read about Chinese New Year in Spanish!
Primary students also made dumplings and learned new words and songs relating to Chinese New Year:
- “Singing and Smiling”: 歌声与微笑 (song)
- “Happy Chinese New Year”: 新年好 (song)
- “That’s Wrong, That’s Wrong”: 不对, 不对 (story about a family preparing for a New Year celebration, but everything goes wrong)
- “Feet”: 脚 (nursery rhyme incorporating movement)
- “Looking for a friend”: 找朋友 (game)
All students learned about customs that take place during Chinese New Year celebrations, such as:
- 做饺子: To make dumplings
- 拿红包: To receive red envelopes
- 放鞭炮: To set off firecrackers
- 吃汤圆: To eat tangyuan (boiled balls of glutinous rice flour, eaten during the Lantern festival)
- 挂灯笼: To hang lanterns
Readers, we wish you peace and good health in the Year of the Horse (馬年安康, mǎ nián ān kāng)!