Chinese New Year

by Wendy Osteyée-Christensen

This song was sent to us by subscriber Wendy Osteyée-Christensen of Harleysville, PA. She wrote that her goal was to write a song that would enable the children to experience various activities associated with this holiday (despite regional and family differences).

She also wrote, "I used this song for all first through fifth grades, and found that each enjoyed it tremendously and performed it on their own musical skill levels. First and second graders sang the pentatonic song, acted out each verse and played temple blocks, gong and shakers. Third, fourth and fifth graders added the half note bourdon on bass xylophone. Everyone had a part to play.

My room is equipped with piccolo temple blocks (about $50) and a seven inch gong (about $35). Claves could be substituted for the blocks and a finger cymbal for the gong. Any shakers will do. (Shakers play on beats 1 and 2 of each measure with blocks and gong, indicated on the music.)

To do the simple choreography for each verse, certain props are useful. I made ribbon sticks by gluing two four foot ribbons to Popsicle sticks. (These have been handy for a number of activities and they are short enough that no one gets hurt.)

Here are the movements:

  • The children sit in a circle. First, we practice the "dragon" rhythm. I use an overhead projector to put it on the wall. Then we sing the song and talk about the words. Finally, we act it out. Those not acting in a verse keep the song going.
  • Verse 1: Six or seven children go to the center and wave ribbon sticks. They spin around once on the third line and spin the other way on the fourth. Then they back up to their places, take a bow and sit down by the end of the verse.
  • Verse 2: A few children carry little red packages or envelopes to the center. They walk around showing them to those seated. They spin around once after the third line, spin the other way after the fourth. They back up to their places, bow and sit.
  • Verse 3: A few children carrying artificial flowers, leaves and/or fruit go to the center of the circle. They place them in a basket or vase that has bare branches in it. They circle around after the third and fourth lines, backup to their places, bow, and sit.
  • Verse 4: A few children go to the center and make a chain. The illusion of a dragon can be created by having the children put one hand on the shoulder in front of them and hold a scarf on their heads with their free hands. Or, you can make a dragon to be held on their heads. They walk around the center of the circle in half note rhythm, return to their places, bow and sit down.
  • Verse 5: The same ribbon children perform the motions from verse 1.
  • The last sound should be the gong.

At the end of music class, we performed the whole song for their teachers who were very impressed with the tone set by the piece. They also liked the multicultural emphasis."

Wendy based her song on concepts learned in the book, "The Chinese New Year," by Cheng Hou-tien (published by Henry Holt & Company, Inc., New York, New York).

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.