Living in a country where Chinese New Year is a fifteen-day festival during which everyone becomes Chinese–in the same way that everyone beomes Irish on St. Patrick’s Day–means that questions about the holiday become inevitable and insistent.
Why are firecrackers an integral part of the festival? Why are markets filled with green-leafed oranges? What are the scarlet paper wall-hangings that are emblazoned with gold calligraphy? Why are there so many packages of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit for sale? Why do people buy branches laden with flowering plum blossoms or pussywillows? What are the small red envelopes used for? What does it mean to be in the Year of the Ox? And most important to many spectators, what is that lion doing, and who are the masked people who dance with it?
I don’t know about you, but when I want quick and clear answers to questions like these, I turn to children’s books. And the ones that provided answers for me are Tricia Morissey’s Hiss! Pop! Boom! and My Mom Is a Dragon and My Dad is a Boar, along with the inimitable Demi’s Happy, Happy Chinese New Year!—all three of which are laden with enticingly presented facts.
If you have questions about this vibrant and revitalizing festival that brightens the darkest time of year, these three books are a great place to begin your search for answers. And if you’ve found other titles that have helped with this quest, please let us know what they are!