The Year of the Ox Begins February 12, 2021

Chinese New Year Books, Movies, Crafts, & Recipes to Help You Celebrate

By Kyrie Collins, Highlands Ranch-Parker-Castle Rock-Lone Tree Publisher February 11, 2021

Gong Xi Fat Sai!

Roughly translated from Mandarin Chinese, it means "Congratulations and Prosperity!"

The Chinese New Year is a celebration of the coming spring. Following a lunar calendar, the new year begins on the second new moon after the winter solstice and ends on the full moon fifteen days later. It is the most important holiday for the Chinese, marked by traditional meals, fireworks, family gatherings, gift-giving, Red Envelopes, and a Lantern Festival at the end of the festivities.

LEARN: The Legend of Chinese New Year

Nian lived deep within the sea for the entire year, but on every Chinese New Year Eve, he would come ashore. He devoured livestock and humans, so everyone fled to the mountains to escape harm.

One year, an elderly man appeared in the village on the Eve of the New Year and promised to chase the beast away. The villagers did not believe him; they tried to convince him to flee with them, but he refused.

When Nian emerged to wreak his usual havoc, the man set off firecrackers, lit bright lanterns, and waved red banners that frightened Nian, causing him to flee. The villagers returned, expecting the worst, but found their village intact and safe. The elderly man was not there, but they found the remains of the three items he used to scare Nian away and decided that he must have freed them from the beast.

From that day on, the villagers set off firecrackers, lit lanterns, and waved red banners to await the New Year, and the festival became known as the "Passing of Nian." "Nian" is the Chinese word that means "year," and this is how the legend was born.

LEARN: The Zodiac

According to legend, the Jade Emperor said the order of the Zodiac would be decided by the order in which the animals arrived to his party. Every Chinese New Year is associated with a specific animal: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Ram, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, or Pig.

Ox should have been the first to arrive but Rat tricked Ox into giving him a ride. At the entrance, Rat jumped off Ox and ran into the party, making Ox the second to arrive. In Chinese culture, Ox is a valued animal because of its strength and important role in agriculture.

The Year of the Ox begins on February 12, 2021, and lasts until January 31, 2022. Ox are considered to be hardworking and honest. Those born under the sign of the Ox are said to be good leaders and good speakers who are generally cheerful but somewhat stubborn.

This Chinese New Year specifically celebrates the Metal Ox. It is said to bring diligence, stability, and prosperity. After 2020, that sounds positively divine! 

READ: Stories About Chinese Culture

  • Round is a Mooncake: A Book of Shapes by Roseanne Thongs
    This book for toddlers and preschoolers was a family favorite when my boys were little. From round rice bowls to square dim sum, it introduces children to a variety of objects that are significant in Chinese culture.
  • Dim Sum for Everyone by Grace Lin
    Another book that is just right for very young children, this one celebrates a cultural custom and a universal favorite activity ... eating!
  • Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel
    A re-telling of an ancient Chinese folktale about a boy with a very long name (Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo!) who fell down a well.
  • Celebrating Chinese New Year by Carolyn Otto
    Part of the Holidays Around the World series, the book engages school-age children with fun facts and beautiful pictures. Additional books, videos, and websites are also provided.
  • Crouching Tiger by Ying Chang Compestine
    School-age children will enjoy this story about a Chinese-American boy and his relationship with his grandfather who has come from China to visit.

WATCH: A Family Movie

  • Mulan (G)
    When the emperor of China calls for all families to defend the country against barbarian invaders, a courageous Mulan disguises herself as a male soldier to preclude her aging father from having to fight in the war.
  • The Karate Kid (PG)
    Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith star in this modern update of the movie we fell in love with back in the '80s (remember swooning over Ralph Macchio?).
  • Kung Fu Panda (PG)
    With characters voiced by Jack Black (Po), Dustin Hoffman (Master Shifu), Angelina Jolie (Tigress), Jackie Chan (Monkey), and Seth Rogen (Mantis), this 2008 animated movie from Dreamworks was a huge hit with kids and adults alike! You can even make it a movie marathon with Kung Fu Panda 2 and 3!
  • Life of Pi (PG)
    This is a beautiful coming-of-age story directed by Ang Lee and based on the novel by Yann Martel. It received eleven Academy Award nominations and won the categories of Director, Cinematography, Score, and Visual Effects.
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (PG-13)
    This martial arts spectacular featuring incredible action sequences and special effects earned ten Academy Award nominations and won the categories of Score, Cinematography, Art Direction, and Foreign Language Film.
  • The Last Emperor (PG-13)
    Winner of nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Cinematography, this epic film tells the true story of Pu Yi, the last imperial ruler of China.

EAT: Chinese Dishes

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Kids will love creating their own lettuce wraps in this fun, hands-on dinner idea. If you're not a fan of lettuce, you can use whole-wheat tortillas for your wrap instead. Get the recipe HERE.

Chinese Chicken Salad
This nutritious twist on the old classic is overloaded with vegetables and flavor. Get the recipe HERE.

Egg Drop Soup
Whip up a pot of this delicious soup using just four ingredients that you probably already have in your kitchen. Get the recipe HERE.

Fortune Cookies
Remind the ones you love how special they are when YOU make the fortune in these homemade cookies. Get the recipe HERE.

New Year Tray of Prosperity
Share a special six-sided platter filled with dried fruits, nuts, and other foods to bring in a lucky year. Get the instructions HERE.

PLAY: Fun Crafts and Games

Chinese Paper Lantern
Decorate for the holiday with a Chinese lantern.  Get the directions HERE.

Chinese New Year Gong
Literally ring in the Chinese New Year with a make-at-home gong. Get the instructions HERE.

The New Year Game of Jianzi
During the Chinese New Year holiday, children enjoy all kinds of games, including a game of shuttlecock called jianzi, which can be played by any number of people. Get the instructions HERE.

The Red Envelope
Red is the color of good luck and happiness in Chinese tradition and a monetary gift given in a red envelope is believed to be "lucky money" for the recipient. Get the instructions HERE.