By now, many of the resolutions made on Dec. 31 have been quietly forgotten and placed on a shelf labeled "maybe next year." However, you have a second chance to start anew with the two-week celebration of the Chinese New Year, which began yesterday. The origin of the Chinese New Year, popularly known as the Spring Festival, is centuries old. An ancient lunar calendar determines the exact date that always falls in January or February. This is the Year of the Dragon and being the first Dragon of the 21st century (4698 on the Chinese calendar) the holiday will be ushered in with feasting, fireworks, parading dragons, dancing lions and the honoring of ancestors.
The traditional greeting during the 15-day celebration is "Gung Hay Fat Choy," which means "Wishing you prosperity and wealth." Although the celebrations of Chinese New Year vary, the underlying message is one of peace, prosperity and happiness for family and friends.
Children love holidays and are fascinated with tales about dragons, so you can use the occasion of the Year of the Dragon to encourage your child's writing skills.
Begin by making a chart with your child labeled "What I Know" and "What I Think I Know About Dragons." Explain that in the Chinese culture the dragon is a mystical creature that brings good luck. Discuss other items that are thought to bring good luck (penny, four leaf clover, rabbit's foot).
Then read some of the suggested books and ask your child questions. When you think of a dragon, what does it look like? Does it breathe fire, fly through the air and eat people? Is it friendly and magical? Where does it live?
Your child can dictate or write and illustrate a descriptive story, fable or fairy tale or create a dragon song or poem.
* "Sam and the Lucky Money" by Karen Chinn
* "Happy New Year! Kung-Hsi Fa-Ts'Ai!" by Demi
* "The Dancing Dragon" by Marcia Vaughan
* "The Dragon New Year: A Chinese Legend" by Dave Bouchard