Chinese New Year Dragon
Today's Snack: Fortune cookies!
The Chinese New Year comes quite a while after
the American one. That's because Chinese months are reckoned by the lunar
calendar. Each month begins on the darkest day of that month, based on the
phases of the moon. In China, people may take weeks off work to prepare for and
celebrate the New Year. It's their biggest holiday of the year.
At Chinese New Year
celebrations, people wear red clothes, write poems on red paper, and give
children "lucky money" in red envelopes. Red symbolizes fire, which
according to legend can drive away bad luck. That's why they have fireworks and
the lantern festival, which symbolizes the reunion of people with their
departed ancestors. And it's why they have the spectacular dragon dance,
featuring a colorful dragon as long as 100 feet.
The dragon's fire is supposed to
sweep away everything that's bad. The Bible may declare that Satan is a dragon,
but in China, the dragon is a good guy.
The dragon for the elaborate dragon
dances is typically made of silk, paper, and bamboo. It may be held up by young
men who dance as they guide the colorful beast through the streets. They may
hold up lightweight hoops to keep the structure of the dragon's body going for
such a long length.
For kids, you can make a cute and
homespun dragon's head and put on your own dragon dance.
Large shirt box, lid and base, for
A smaller and preferably rounded,
lightweight box or container (in the picture above, the dragon's head was a
hollow caddy for plastic bags)
Green foil tabletopper (look in the
St. Patrick's Day section at a party store)
Clear plastic packing tape
Ice pick or large nail
A little red foil or shiny red
White cardstock or shiny white paper
A little orange tissue paper
Tennis ball, cut in half
Hot glue gun
Neon orange paper
Colorful crepe paper
A long (20 feet or more?) stretch of
fabric, perhaps borrowed from a fabric store, seamstress or upholsterer,
approximately five feet per child in the dance . . . or safety-pin several
blankets or sheets together to get the length you need
First, cover the box lid and base,
and the rounded box or container, with the green foil. You may have to cut it
on a cardboard surface with an X-acto knife or utility knife; scissors tend to
bunch it up. Tape over the insides, too, so that the lid and base are both
Put the lid partway on the base, and
poke a hole through both. Twist a piece of wire around the head of each brad,
then thread the wire through each of the two holes. Follow up by sticking the
brads through the holes, too. Pull the wires taut on the outside, and twist
together. The brads and wire will allow the dragon's "jaw" to open and shut.
Tape down excess wire with plastic packing tape so it won't poke anybody.
Now hot-glue the smaller container
vertically on the lid so that the dragon has a "head." Be sure to support it
with plastic packing tape as well, because this dragon is going to "dance" and
you don't want this structure to fall off and tear the foil.
Let kids get creative on how else to
construct the dragon. You could cut a red foil tongue and tape on . . . big,
white teeth or rows of teeth . . . tissue-paper "flames" coming out of nostrils
. . . a tennis ball cut in half with reptilian "pupils" drawn on with black
marker . . . neon orange posterboard fragments off to the sides like whiskers .
. . colorful crepe paper streamers . . . and whatever else makes sense,
including scales and claws.
You're ready to dance! Now work out
a system for who gets to be the dragon's "head," and perhaps take turns. That
person should get ready to dance down the hall, into the gym, outside, or
wherever the path of your dragon dance may lead. Other kids fall in place
behind that kid, evenly spaced, and adults can spread the fabric or sheets over
them. The last child should hold the jingle bells and shake them as they all
If you have more children than you
have room in the dragon, the others can make Chinese Lanterns (After School Treats, Holidays & Seasons
#13) and dance alongside the dragon on its path.
Have fun! And Gung Hay Pot Choy - Happy Chinese New Year!