Currently, I hear more and more the term cultural appropriation used – the act of using things from a culture that is not yours, particularly without thought to respect that culture. I think this has left a lot of parents and educators confused and uncomfortable with whether to learn about festivals and customs of other cultures such as Lunar New Year and how to do so sensitively. As with everything, I think intent is so important to consider here. Coming from a place of cultural appreciation and celebration should be welcomed.
I feel strongly that as parents and educators we should give opportunities for our children to learn about other cultures. The more we immerse them in other ways of life and help them to understand that we are all part of our one world – the more empathy for others I believe they will have.
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Do Your Research
When looking to learn about a festival from a different culture be sure to do your research first. Try and speak with people from that culture about what it means to them, why they celebrate and what traditions their family has. When gathering resources such as books, videos and artefacts ensure they are true representations and avoid over commercialised products that may not be a fair portrayal of the culture.
Be sensitive in the words you use when you explore different customs, traditions and foods. Children listen very carefully to what we say, even if we think they don’t! For example, someone trying a samosa and saying ‘I hate spicy foods’. Hate is a very strong word and can often leave our little ones reluctant to try new things and leave negative thoughts. I’m not saying you lie to them, but think carefully of the words you choose – ‘I really enjoyed how crispy the samosa was, it’s a little spicy for me, what do you think?’ – could be a more open response.
Similarities and Differences
An important consideration for children is around similarities and differences. It’s how they place themselves in the world. Help them to discuss these similarities and differences with appropriate language and showing appreciation for others.
Lunar New Year
Lunar New Year is a celebration each year sometime between mid January and mid February.
As with most things that we learn about together at home we start off with where. We use our globe and find where we are and then find the place or places we are discovering about. We talk about whether it’s near or far, over land or water and how we might get there.
After that, we get out an atlas to find out a little more. I like children’s atlas’ that have pictures of different landmarks, animals and objects relating to that place. It’s a great way to start a discussion and you can find out what they already know. Floss, our daughter, was really surprised by how big China was in comparison to where we are in the UK. She also found a picture of a panda and would like to know more about pandas too!
Lunar New Year – Learning From Children
A lovely way to immerse children in different cultural celebrations is through short videos. I love the CBeebies ones where children are the staring roles. Here’s a link to the ones we’ll be watching. The first video introduces the preparation for the New Year and a New Year meal, the second one sees the same children at a Chinese street parade and the final one is a puppet show that tells the story of how the animals of the Chinese Zodiac came about.
Exploring Lunar New Year
Floss loves being creative so a lot of how we learn about other cultures and celebrations is through making things. For Lunar New Year she’s picked out a few things that she’d like to make:
- Lantern – follow the link for instructions
- Red Envelopes
We’ve already watched the first video that I mentioned above and she’s told me we’ll need lots of red to make the above as it’s a lucky colour!
I’m no artist, but thought I’d share the dragon I’ve drawn for Floss to decorate too.
We have the Fiddlesticks.Education Early Years Pack which contains a celebration pack for Lunar New Year (you can purchase her celebrations pack individually too – there’s a link at the bottom of the page). The pack itself has a few more resources to it, but the ones in the image above are what we’re going to be using.
I like to be able to interweave Floss’s current interests with anything new we’re looking at. So, we’ll be using the letter lanterns and I know she’s going to be very excited to talk about the sizes of the dragons. Floss loves animals so I’ve collected animals we have in the house for her to match too.
How beautiful is this seasonal table set up to celebrate the Lunar New Year? It’s by Kelly @thewaywewaldorf over on Instagram – here’s a link to her wonderful account. I absolutely adore the felted dragon. I need to have a go at doing this.
Kelly has also written and illustrated a beautiful story that you can download for free from her website here,
Family Time Celebrations
For our family, celebrations always revolve around food, special foods for certain events and times of the year. So, when we explore other celebrations we always like to discover what foods would be eaten for that festival and do our best to reproduce (Floss is gluten and dairy free, so sometimes it needs a lot of thought)! She’s very excited for our special meal this week and can’t wait to use chop sticks.
So, why am I doing this? What do I hope Floss will gain from exploring the celebration of the New Lunar Year?
- The value of doing and sharing experiences together as a family
- An interest in the world around her
- Discover and learn about other countries in our world
- Learn about Lunar New Year
- See the similarities we share and the differences we have with others
- Understand there are other languages
- Try new experiences – activities, foods, stories and music
Here’s a blog post on how we explored Diwali last year.