{Celebrate China} Chinese Traditions

If you are an international adoptive mama like me, chances are that you didn’t inherently know everything about your child’s birth culture.  Unless you spent years living in their birth country, it takes a lot of research and learning to feel like you might really have a sense of the people, the traditions, and the holidays.  It’s important for us adoptive parents to know everything we can about where our children came from to celebrate their birth heritage, and also to help them make sense of who they are.  Aside from other adoptive parents, our Chinese friends, and the ever-present interweb, there are a couple books that have been extremely wonderful resources for me in learning about Chinese culture.  I want to share them with you.

Good Luck Life, The Essential Guide To Chinese American Celebrations and Culture by Rosemary Gong is simply fantastic.  From the book: “Good Luck Life is the first book to explain the meanings of Chinese rituals and to offer advice on when and how to plan for Chinese holidays and special occasions such as Chinese weddings, the Red Egg and Ginger party to welcome a new baby, significant birthdays, and the inevitable funeral. Packed with practical information, Good Luck Life contains an abundance of facts, legends, foods, old-village recipes, and quick planning guides for Chinese New Year, Clear Brightness, Dragon Boat, Mid-Autumn, and many other festivals. Written with warmth and wit, Good Luck Life is beautifully designed as an easily accessible cultural guide that includes an explanation of the Lunar Calendar, tips on Chinese table etiquette for dining with confidence, and dos and don’ts from wise Auntie Lao, who recounts ancient Chinese beliefs and superstitions. This is your map for celebrating a good luck life.”

From the Table of Contents, it covers: Chinese New Year, Qing Ming – Clear Brightness Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, Double Seventh Day (like the American Valentine’s Day), Hungry Ghosts Festival, Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, Chong Yang – Double Ninth Day, Weddings, Red Egg and Ginger Party to Celebrate New Babies, Big Birthdays, Funerals, Table Etiquette and Other Delicacies.  It is a quick enough read (or could also be read as needed) and explains all of the main Chinese holidays (some that I didn’t even know existed).  It shares practical ways to celebrate the holidays here in the U.S. and gives the stories and explanations about how and why the holidays came to be.  In my opinion, Good Luck Life is a must-have resource for all adoptive parents with children from China.

Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats, A Treasure Of Chinese Holiday Tales, Activities & Recipes by Nina Simonds, Leslie Swartz, and The Children’s Museum of Boston is another awesome resource for adoptive families. From the book: “Filled with delectable recipes, hands-on family activities, and traditional tales to read aloud, this extraordinary collection will inspire families everywhere to re-create the magic of Chinese holidays in their own homes. They can feast on golden New Year’s dumplings and tasty moon cakes, build a miniature boat for the Dragon Boat Festival and a kite at Qing Ming, or share the story of the greedy Kitchen God or the valiant warrior Hou Yi.”

It’s not quite as inclusive as Good Luck Life, but seems to be geared more toward celebrating with children.  It offers some great ideas for celebrations of Chinese New Year, Qing Ming, Dragon Boat Festival, and Mid-Autumn Moon Festival.  The story of each holiday is shared, as well as several traditional recipes and activities.  The stories are shared in a way that they could easily be read aloud to children, and there are even a few simple illustrations.  As a homeschooling mama, I especially like the hands-on craft ideas for each holiday.

Although I think both of these books compliment each other very well, go with Good Luck Life If you only want to make one purchase.  I prefer having both, but there are enough internet ideas out there for holiday crafts.  You could probably make up for not having Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats with some extra pinterest research.

  • January 21, 2014 - 7:00 pm

    jessica - Thanks for the great resources! This will be our first Chinese New Years with out daughter and these books would be so helpful!ReplyCancel

    • January 21, 2014 - 7:51 pm

      Living Out His Love - Jessica, I’m so glad to help you! They have been great for me, and I’m sure they will help you too. Stay tuned on the blog – I have several other posts planned leading up to Chinese New Year celebrating my daughter’s Chinese heritage! I also have many ideas pinned on my “Celebrate China” pinterest board: http://www.pinterest.com/znprb/celebrate-china/. Congratulations on your first Chinese New Year with your daughter, how exciting for your family!ReplyCancel

  • May 26, 2015 - 4:04 am

    {Book Review} It’s All Chinese to Me » Living Out His Love - […] If you are looking for more information about Chinese traditions and holidays, check out my review of Good Luck Life. […]ReplyCancel

  • June 12, 2015 - 4:27 pm

    Wes - Nicole, great post and so wonderful that you’re making such an effort to learn so much about Chinese traditions and culture. I’d like to suggest one more book for your list, Iris Chang’s The Chinese in America. It’s the best and most comprehensive narrative history of the Chinese experience in the United States that I’ve found and includes a lot that you can share with your kids that’s not included in most school curriculums. I found it really helpful to add the historical component to my own understanding of my background, in addition to the more classic traditions and cultural elements.ReplyCancel

    • June 12, 2015 - 8:31 pm

      Nicole Renée - Thanks for your suggestion, Wes! It’s been on my wish list but I haven’t gotten to it yet. I’ll try to get to it over the summer, it looks really interesting!

      I just spent some time checking out your website, it’s AWESOME! Wow you’ve put so much effort into it! I’m going to share it with my adoption community, it’s an incredibly valuable resource to parents of Chinese children. I’ll be referring back to it often! We’ll be celebrating Dragon Boat Festival next week 🙂ReplyCancel

      • June 12, 2015 - 11:34 pm

        Wes - Thanks so much for those kinds words! I’m really happy that you find it useful!ReplyCancel

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