Dates for assembly

The Chinese New Year festival is the main holiday of the year for more than one quarter of the world's population.

Outline script Some very young children and very old people have trouble remembering their age. In China, this isn't a problem. If you are asked "How old are you?" many Chinese people simply answer "I was born in the Year of the Monkey", or in the year of another animal.

The Chinese calendar may have been invented by a Chinese emperor as early as 2600 bc. It is said that, centuries later, the Buddha named each year after one of 12 animals in this sequence: rat, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig (or boar). Every 12 years the cycle is repeated. The coming year will be the Year of the Dog, so anyone born in this Chinese year will have the traditional characteristics of the dog: loyalty and trustworthiness (as does anyone born in 1994-5).

Also known as the Spring Festival, the Chinese New Year always begins between late January and mid-February in the western calendar, depending on the Moon. It celebrates the reawakening of the Earth after winter and the start of ploughing and sowing. People begin buying presents, decorations and new clothes a month in advance. Homes are cleaned to sweep away all traces of bad luck from the past year.

On Chinese New Year's Eve, houses are brightly lit, fireworks are set off to frighten evil spirits, doors and windows are painted red (a sign of good luck) and the family eats a celebratory meal together. Money (in red envelopes) is given to children and unmarried people. On New Year's Day, people visit relatives and friends and special sweet foods are eaten - candied coconut as a sign of togetherness, candied melon for good health and candied lotus seeds for good luck.

Follow-up

Pupils could work out which animal is their sign with information available atwww.bbc.co.uklondonyourlondoncny2005calender.shtml See also www.chinapage.com12animals.html

Using red card and a gold or yellow pen, design Chinese New Year cards.

Examples at www.new-year.co.ukchinesecardscards.htm

For younger children, outline drawings of the animals of the Chinese Zodiac are at www.underfives.co.ukchnsenyr.html These can be printed, coloured and used to make a wall display.

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