Chinese New Year is almost here! Chinese families around the world are already celebrating this exciting event which lasts for fifteen days. The celebration begins on the night of a new moon and culminates with the Lantern Festival, a celebration that takes place under the light of the full moon. Families join together in the streets carrying lighted lanterns to create a beautiful light display.
Before the Chinese New Year begins, homes are cleaned from top to bottom. The goal is to sweep out ill fortune and encourage the good fortune of the new year to enter. The evening of Chinese New Year is a big event celebrated with traditional feasting and ending with a fireworks display. Each of the fifteen days of Chinese New Year has a special significance: friends and families share traditional feasts, honor ancestors and deities, exchange gifts, visit extended family members, give children red envelopes with good luck money, and enjoy traditional music and special celebrations.
There are so many wonderful ways for our children to learn languages today. Online programs offer interactive multimedia opportunities that we could have only dreamed of having when we were young. Bilingual books and DVDs can be found in many libraries around the country, and children’s language learning classes abound.
What parents and teachers sometimes forget is the value of context when it comes to learning a language. Flash cards and online vocabulary games can be fun, but they don’t offer the kind of language development that human conversation provides. We use language for communication, and therefore it is best learned in its natural form: through discussions, conversations and stories.
As the days shorten and the weather turns cold and crisp, families are warming up with their winter holiday celebrations. Candles, lights, sweets and gifts highlight this time of year in many cultures around the world.
Although celebrating specific religious traditions is not permitted in most classrooms in America, there is no reason for teachers to avoid winter holidays all together. In fact, teaching about winter traditions can be a wonderful way to help bilingual children, in particular, feel even more comfortable and included in the classroom setting. The overall focus should be on helping students appreciate both the diversity and similarities of our global traditions.