On the second new moon after the winter solstice, the Chinese celebrate their new year. During this holiday gifts are exchanged, families hold reunions, and fireworks explode into the sky. In chinese, the name for their new year celebration is ‘Spring Festival’, since it heralds the beginning of spring and the new year.

The origin of the Chinese New Year begins with a story. Once upon a time, it was said that there was a mythical beast called Nian. On the first day of the new year, Nian would come and eat crops, children, and livestock. The scared villagers would place food at the foot of their doors every year to keep Nian away. It was said that the well prepared food prevented him from destroying the towns. One day, the people discovered that the wicked beast became frightened by a child wearing red. After this, the villagers decorated the entire town with red on the first day of every new year. After this, Nian stopped terrorizing the town, and the people continued to celebrate the new year by displaying the color red. To this day, one of the chinese new year traditions is to give children red packets filled with money. It is believed to give the child good luck.

This year in particular is a special year. It is the year of the dragon. The dragon, in Chinese mythology, is not an evil beast. He is a bringer of good luck. People born under the sign of the dragon are thought to be great organizers and leaders, capable of tackling any project, although they do not often seek help when they need to, and are quick-tempered.

In addition to the other eleven animal years of; rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig; there are also elements associated with each new year. The chinese elements consist of earth, wood, fire, water, and metal. This year in particular is not just the year of the dragon, it is the year of the water dragon. The last year of the water dragon was in 1952, and happens every sixty years.

A cool craft you might like to try with your kids, is making a paper dragon. They are easy to make, and fun to play with. Go to: http://www.craftjr.com/dragon-paper-craft/, to get a printable template for the paper dragon. It could also be fun for kids, who love animals, to see which animal year they were born in. The website, http://www.china-family-adventure.com/chinese-zodiac.html, is a website for kids to explore what animal year they were born into.