Celebrate Lunar New Year and the Year of the Ox with Osmo!
Celebrated by more than a billion people in China, Vietnam, South Korea, and around the world, Lunar New Year marks the beginning of the new year based on the first new moon. The festival and its traditions date back thousands of years. For example, observation of the Chinese New Year stems from the ancient legend of Nian, a people-eating beast that would come out at the start of the new year. Villagers used red paper decorations, loud noises, and firecrackers to scare Nian off, sparking traditions that continue to this day.
The Chinese zodiac uses animals to represent different years in the lunar calendar. 2021 is the year of the ox, the second animal of the Chinese zodiac. The ox symbolizes honesty, optimism, and hard work. Children born during the year of the ox are likely to have these qualities!
Here’s a glimpse into how communities around the world usher in the Lunar New Year:
Major Lunar New Year Celebrations Around the World
The Lunar New Year is known as Spring Festival. People celebrate this holiday by gifting lucky money in red envelopes, setting off firecrackers, spending time with family, and hanging spring couplets that tell stories. Festivities may also include traditional performances like lion dances, imperial performances, and dragon dances.
Known as Tết Nguyên Đán or Tết, the Lunar New Year in Vietnam is an occasion to reunite with family and honor ancestors. One custom is to place a five-fruit tray (“Mâm Ngũ Quả”) on the ancestral altar in the home. The days leading up to the festival are some of the busiest of the year, with people filling the streets trying to get their shopping done in time.
The first day of the lunar calendar is called Seollal in South Korea. Family gatherings may involve telling stories, playing folk games, performing ancestral rites and eating traditional foods. One popular dish is tteokguk, a traditional Korean soup made from clear broth and white rice cakes that cleanse mind and body for the new year.
Here are a few ideas for celebrating the Lunar New Year, wherever home is for you.
Celebrate the Lunar New Year with Fun Activities
1. Craft Spring Couplets
- Long, thin sheet of paper
- Red ink pen
- Black watercolor paint or brush pen markers
- Calligraphy pen
Directions: First, come up with a New Year’s story that you can tell through pictures. Then, put your imagination to paper by drawing your story with crayons, paints, markers, and glitter. You can use Osmo’s Masterpiece to trace the images you want to use in your story! Once you’ve finished your artwork, you can add a short poem or story to your couplet using calligraphy. If you’re not ready for cursive just yet, careful handwriting will still do. Finally, use black watercolor paint or brush pen markers to make your craftsmanship resemble traditional bamboo brushwork! Don’t forget to sign your name in red ink at the bottom of your spring couplet.
2. Make an Ox with Your Tangram Pieces
Use Osmo’s Tangram learning game to celebrate the year of the Ox! Did you know that this puzzle originated in China? There, Tangram is called qiqiao ban 七巧板, meaning “seven ingenious pieces.” The “original” Tangram was not a tabletop puzzle, but a seating arrangement by Huang Bosi. His “banquet tables” diagram illustrated all of the possible configurations of seven rectangular tables to accommodate different guest counts. He later created a “butterfly tables” diagram that included 13 tables. This same innovation was further simplified around the 18th century, resulting in the final creation of the 7-piece Tangram we know today.
3. Learn Some Facts About Beijing’s Landmarks
Formerly an abandoned factory district, artists transformed this area into a public art exhibition and creative space. The “798” in “798 Art Zone” comes from the old 798 Factory that operated in the district. All of the buildings in this district have distinctive sawtooth-shaped roofs with windows that allow tons of light to enter the artists’ workshops!
The Forbidden City is home to the world’s largest imperial palace, where 24 ancient Chinese emperors lived. The palace consists of 8,000 rooms in total, 40% of which “ordinary” people still cannot enter! Built from precious wood, marble, and golden bricks, the palace even has its very own museum, also one of the largest in the world.
Summer Palace and Kunming Lake
Once the summer home of the Empress Dowager Cixi, today the Summer Palace is a public park in northwestern Beijing. Kunming Lake, the largest lake in Beijing, sits at the center of the palace grounds. The Qianlong Emperor added the lake according to the traditional Chinese gardening practice of “one pond, three hills.” The Summer Palace is also home to the Garden of Virtue and Harmony, the most famous in China.
One of the ‘Three Great Ancestral Courts’ of Taoism, the White Cloud Temple aka Baiyun Taoist Temple is the largest Taoist temple in Beijing. If you get the chance to visit, you’ll notice the temple has three gates representing the three Taoist worlds: Desire, Substance and Emptiness. Another sight to see: the temple scriptures contain three monkeys, but you will have to look closely to find them!
Situated in the center of the Muslim neighborhood on Niujie Street – the largest in Beijing – Niujie Mosque has been the spiritual center for Beijing’s Muslim community for more than a millennium! The oldest and most important mosque in China, the Niujie Mosque is also known as Beijing Cow Mosque. It features intricate, richly colored Chinese rooms with blank white tiles and Islamic fixtures.
A sacred place where many emperors worshipped, the Temple of Heaven is the largest ancient sacrificial temple in China. The temple uses many design elements in multiples of nine to reflect the nine layers of heaven. Another feature of the Temple of Heaven is the Echo Wall, which enables people to whisper to each other from over 200 feet away!
The Great Hall of the People is a state building where Chinese leaders and the National People’s Congress of China meet. It has an auditorium with a giant red star on the ceiling, a meeting room that can seat 10,000 government officials, and a banquet hall so large that it can serve 5,000 guests at a time!
National Stadium and National Aquatics Center
The Chinese government built both of these stadiums for the 2008 Olympic Games. Nicknamed “the Bird’s Nest” for its woven steel beams, Beijing National Stadium primarily hosts football (soccer) matches today. Standing almost 200 feet high, architects built the stadium to withstand earthquakes of up to 8.0 magnitude on the Richter Scale! The nearby Beijing National Aquatics Center is one of the largest water parks in China. The building resembles a cube covered in bubbles and even has a theater that can seat 150 people.