Eat! Make! Read! Watch! Celebrate the Year of the Rabbit on January 22

🇨🇳 Recipes, crafts, and fun to celebrate the Lunar New Year

By Kyrie Collins, Macaroni KID Highlands Ranch-Parker-Castle Rock-Lone Tree Publisher January 16, 2023

Gong Xi Fat Sai! 

Roughly translated from Mandarin Chinese, it means "Congratulations and Prosperity!" 

The Chinese New Year is a celebration of the coming spring. Following a lunar calendar, the new year begins on the second new moon after the winter solstice and ends on the full moon fifteen days later.

It is the most important holiday for the Chinese, marked by traditional meals, fireworks, family gatherings, gift-giving, Red Envelopes, and a Lantern Festival at the end of the festivities.

LEARN: The Legend of Chinese New Year

Nian lived deep within the sea for the entire year, but on every Chinese New Year Eve, he would come ashore. He devoured livestock and humans, so everyone fled to the mountains to escape harm.

One year, an elderly man appeared in the village on the Eve of the New Year and promised to chase the beast away. The villagers did not believe him; they tried to convince him to flee with them, but he refused.

When Nian emerged to wreak his usual havoc, the man set off firecrackers, lit bright lanterns, and waved red banners that frightened Nian, causing him to flee. The villagers returned, expecting the worst, but found their village intact and safe. The elderly man was not there, but they found the remains of the three items he used to scare Nian away and decided that he must have freed them from the beast.

From that day on, the villagers set off firecrackers, lit lanterns, and waved red banners to await the New Year, and the festival became known as the "Passing of Nian." "Nian" is the Chinese word that means "year," and this is how the legend was born.

LEARN: The Zodiac

It's time to say goodbye to the Year of the Tiger and usher in the Year of the Rabbit!

According to legend, the Jade Emperor said the order of the Zodiac would be decided by the order in which the animals arrived to his party. Every Chinese New Year is associated with a specific animal: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Ram, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, or Pig.

The Rabbit is the fourth animal of the Chinese Zodiac. Each zodiac sign is associated with one of the five elements: Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, or Earth. Specifically, this is the year of the Water Rabbit in China, and it is predicted to be a year of hope. While the year of the Rabbit comes every 12 years, the year of the Water Rabbit only comes every 60 years.

The Rabbit is considered to be the luckiest of all the animals. It symbolizes beauty, elegance, and gentleness. Water Rabbits, specifically, are known for their quiet and calm nature, intuitiveness, and thoughtfulness. They are considered to be good workers with great attention to detail and are highly regarded by their employers and colleagues.

ATTEND: Chinese New Year Celebrations

The Highlands Ranch Cultural Affairs Association is once again partnering with Great Wall Chinese Academy to celebrate the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, ushering in the Year of the Rabbit in 2023. 

Enjoy a free cultural fair throughout Southridge Recreation Center on Saturday, January 21 from 12:00-4:00 PM. Performances at 2:00 PM include traditional music, exciting Chinese Dragon and Lion dances, beautiful folk dances, and incredible Kung Fu demonstrations. Performers are a mix of talented school-age individuals and professionals.

The Cultural Fair is free to attend. Tickets to the performances are $10. Purchase tickets here.

Other semi-local events:

READ: Stories About Chinese New Year

Click on any title below to borrow the book from the Douglas County Libraries.

WATCH: A Family Movie

  • Mulan (G): When the emperor of China calls for all families to defend the country against barbarian invaders, a courageous Mulan disguises herself as a male soldier to preclude her aging father from having to fight in the war.
  • The Karate Kid (PG): Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith star in this modern update of the movie we fell in love with back in the '80s (remember swooning over Ralph Macchio?).
  • Kung Fu Panda (PG): With characters voiced by Jack Black (Po), Dustin Hoffman (Master Shifu), Angelina Jolie (Tigress), Jackie Chan (Monkey), and Seth Rogen (Mantis), this 2008 animated movie from Dreamworks was a huge hit with kids and adults alike! You can even make it a movie marathon with Kung Fu Panda 2 and 3!
  • Life of Pi (PG): This is a beautiful coming-of-age story directed by Ang Lee and based on the novel by Yann Martel. It received eleven Academy Award nominations and won the categories of Director, Cinematography, Score, and Visual Effects.
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (PG-13): This martial arts spectacular featuring incredible action sequences and special effects earned ten Academy Award nominations and won the categories of Score, Cinematography, Art Direction, and Foreign Language Film.
  • The Last Emperor (PG-13): Winner of nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Cinematography, this epic film tells the true story of Pu Yi, the last imperial ruler of China.

EAT: Chinese Dishes

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Kids will love creating their own lettuce wraps in this fun, hands-on dinner idea. If you're not a fan of lettuce, you can use whole-wheat tortillas for your wrap instead. Get the recipe HERE.

Chinese Chicken Salad
This nutritious twist on the old classic is overloaded with vegetables and flavor. Get the recipe HERE.

Egg Drop Soup
Whip up a pot of this delicious soup using just four ingredients that you probably already have in your kitchen. Get the recipe HERE.

Fortune Cookies
Remind the ones you love how special they are when YOU make the fortune in these homemade cookies. Get the recipe HERE.

New Year Tray of Prosperity
Share a special six-sided platter filled with dried fruits, nuts, and other foods to bring in a lucky year. Get the instructions HERE.

PLAY: Fun Crafts and Games

Chinese New Year Gong
Literally ring in the Chinese New Year with a make-at-home gong. Get the instructions HERE.

The New Year Game of Jianzi
During the Chinese New Year holiday, children enjoy all kinds of games, including a game of shuttlecock called jianzi, which can be played by any number of people. Get the instructions HERE.

The Red Envelope
Red is the color of good luck and happiness in Chinese tradition, and a monetary gift given in a red envelope is believed to be "lucky money" for the recipient. Get the instructions HERE.