Not all cultures in Australia follow the Gregorian calendar in observing New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Chinese New Year follows the lunar calendar, based on the movement of the moon. Thus the date changes each year and in 2020, Chinese New Year falls on 25 January. The new year is often celebrated with dragon dances, lion dances, gift-giving, family reunions, red lanterns, new clothes, feasting, festivals and fireworks. However you celebrate the new year have a happy one! Or ‘Xin Nian Kuai Le’. This means ‘Happy New Year’ in Mandarin.

Image: pixabay



How to Catch a Dragon

written by Adam Wallace ; illustrated by Andy Elkerton.

The brightly coloured illustrations combined with a fun story about trying to catch a clever dragon will appeal to children. At the same time children will be introduced to some of the Chinese New Year traditions such as hanging red lanterns, lucky red envelopes, dragon dances and new year fireworks. Told in rhyming text the rhythm falters a bit and the story seems a bit contrived. However, the overriding message that family and spending time with family is the most important thing is a positive one. The entire text is translated to Mandarin and Pinyin at the back of the book and Chinese characters have been included throughout the book.

A Fearsome Beast and a Dumpling Feast

written by Yves Stening; illustrated by Nigel Buchanan.

This is the first in a series of books called ‘Dinner Detectives’. Clementine and Aksel are siblings who travel back in time and around the world to uncover stories behind the different foods we eat. In this adventure it is Chinese New Year. The children learn all about the Nian (a horrible child-eating beast) and why dumplings are eaten. Did you know that you have to eat lots of dumplings at New Year if you don’t want your ears to freeze off? Facts about Chinese New Year are included in this fun and cheerfully illustrated story. For example, people wear red in honour of the little girl who scared away the Nian and to keep the Nian away red lanterns are hung and firecrackers are popped. And, of course, it is a time for feasting! An easy-to follow recipe for dumplings is included so you can celebrate with your own delicious dumplings.  


The Great Race: Story of the Chinese Zodiac

written and illustrated by Christopher Corr.

This picture book retells the Chinese zodiac story. The Chinese folktale explains how the twelve animals in the zodiac were chosen, and the reason for their order. To find a way of measuring time, the Jade Emperor held a Great Race. The first twelve animals to cross a river would have a year named after them. And so the scene is set for an exciting race to ensue. Who will be the first to cross the river? The artwork is bold, brightly coloured and engaging, yet also quite unusual. The story is told in a simple and uncomplicated manner to appeal to young children. 

The Little Rat and the Golden Seed

written and illustrated  by Li Jian.

2020 is the Year of the Rat in the Chinese Zodiac. The rat is the first of the twelve zodiac animals. This picture book tells the story of how the clever rat earned his place as one of the Chinese zodiac animals. It is bilingual (Chinese-English) and part of the ‘Chinese Zodiac’ series. In this story the little rat embarks on an adventure to find a golden seed. Along the way he encounters rough seas, fierce guards and tall mountains. But despite these obstacles he brings home a golden rice seed and saves the village from going hungry. Illustrated with Chinese ink paintings, this book also includes a cultural explanation section.



Lion Dance Song

(Tune: Mary Had a Little Lamb)

See the lion dance and prance
Dance and prance, dance and prance
See the lion dance and prance
On Chinese New Year’s Day

Hear the firecrackers pop
Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop
Hear the firecrackers pop
On Chinese New Year’s Day

See the children laugh and clap
Laugh and clap, laugh and clap
See the children laugh and clap
On Chinese New Year’s Day

Image: pixabay

Dragon, Dragon


Dragon, dragon, dance around.

Dragon, dragon, touch the ground.

Dragon, dragon, shake your head.

Dragon, dragon, tongue so red.

Dragon, dragon, stamp your feet.

Dragon, dragon, coming down the street!

Hip, hip, hooray!

(jump up and down)



Crafty Idea

Make a Chinese red envelope for gift-giving. On New Year’s day, children are given gifts of ‘lucky money’ in small red envelopes.

You will need:

  • Envelope template (from firstpalette)
  • Red card
  • Zodiac rat colouring page
  • White card
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick
  • Crayons or textas
  • Gold glitter or glitter glue (optional)
  • PVA glue (if using glitter)


  • Print the Chinese red envelope template onto red card.
  • Follow the instructions on the template to make your envelope.
  • Print your zodiac rat to the desired size onto white card.
  • Colour in and cut out your rat.
  • Glue your rat to the front of the red envelope.
  • Decorate with gold glitter glue or glitter.

Did You Know?

Just six minutes of reading can result in a 60 per cent drop in stress levels. Happy reading in 2020.