In 2008, Chinese New Year falls on Thursday, February 7th. This year I have a student in my class who celebrates this holiday. She and her mom have been gracious enough to include our class in learning about the festivities and traditions their family celebrates for Chinese New Year. To ring in the Year of the Rat, we learned that new clothes are worn to symbolize the new year, many symbolic foods are prepared, and the color red is used in all decorations. We also learned that on the News Years Eve, children received red packets filled with coins or money. Because 8 is an auspicious number, considered to be good luck, the money in the red envelopes is often in the amount of $8. After gifts are given, families feasts together with many special foods, including dumplings "jiaozi" (which symbolize wealth and prosperity), noodles (which symbolize longevity), and "yue" whole fish (which symbolize togetherness and abundance).
It was really exciting to see the kids share in enjoying and understanding an unfamiliar tradition celebrated by their classmate.