Lunar New Year Family Zone

A photograph of a lantern
Photo Credit: Jeremy Norwood, Norwood Photography.

Join SAAM and the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States online to ring in the Lunar New Year!

Lunar New Year is a celebration of the arrival of spring and the beginning of a new year on the lunisolar calendar. It is celebrated around the world and is a time to cherish loved ones both near and far. This year SAAM is highlighting the Chinese traditions and celebration of the Year of the Ox. Enjoy a variety of family-friendly activities you can complete at home and with your extended family and friends via Zoom. From hands-on craft activities and festive coloring pages featuring artworks from our collection to a variety of live virtual programs and videos, there is fun for the whole family. 

Watch traditional Chinese craft demonstrations and performances. Join the Madison Chinese Dance Corporation for acrobatics, yo-yo, and other Chinese dance traditions to ring in the Year of the Ox.

Enjoy even more Lunar New Year activities with our Smithsonian partners, the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Smithsonian’s national museum of Asian art.

We look forward to celebrating the new year with you and your loved ones online!

This program is part of Lunar New Year DC, organized by the Freer and Sackler Galleries and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

This program is presented in partnership with the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the United States of America.


Paper Prosperity Lantern

A red paper lantern

Supplies needed:

  • 1 sheet of red construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue Stick


- Turn your construction paper so it lays horizontally (long side toward you) in front of you.
- Cut off a 1-inch wide strip from one of the short ends and set it aside.
- Fold the remaining large sheet of paper in half from short end to short end, crease well.
- Cut 1-inch strips on the crease toward the open end, but stop 1 inch before the end. Do not cut off any strips of paper, but leave it all connected.
- When you are finished cutting, open the paper up and glue the long ends together.
- Glue the strip you cut to the top as a handle.
- Hang your lantern.

Ox Paper Bag Puppet

An ox made out of a paper bag

Supplies needed:

  • Paper bag
  • White and brown construction paper
  • Markers
  • Glue


- Cut two ears, two arms, one mouth, an oval for the tummy, and a tail out of the brown construction paper.
- Cut two horns and two eyes out of the white construction paper.
- Using a black marker, color hooves on the end of the arms and pupils in the eyes.
- Glue the stomach to the center bottom of the paper bag.
- Glue the arms and tail to the back of the paper bag.
- Cut the mouth paper in half. Glue the top part to the fold at the “mouth” of the bag. Glue the other half just underneath the main part of the bag. Do not glue the paper bag to itself.
- Draw nostrils and a mouth on this paper. Add a red tongue.
- Glue the eyes just above the mouth.
- Glue the ears to the back of the paper bag and the horns to the front of the paper bag just above the ears.
- Make your ox a friend and put on a puppet show!

Indoor Fireworks

fireworks made out of toilet paper rolls

Supplies needed:

  • Toilet paper roll
  • Red or yellow paint
  • Chenille stems or pipe cleaners
  • Tape
  • Glitter stickers or glitter and glue (optional)


- Paint the toilet paper roll red or yellow. (These are good luck colors for the Chinese New Year)
- Add glitter decorations to the roll (if desired).
- Fold the chenille stems in half and tape to the inner upper half of the toilet roll.
- Enjoy your firework display!


Enjoy coloring pages featuring artworks from SAAM’s collection and traditional Chinese symbols of the Lunar New Year. Since we can not admire your creativity in person, please share a picture of your completed creations by using #SAAMFamilyZone on social media.

2021 is the Year of Ox. In Chinese tradition, there are 12 zodiac signs represented each by an animal: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. The cycle repeats itself every 12 years. Oxen are considered reliable and diligent in Chinese traditional culture. February 12th, 2021, marks the beginning of the Year of Ox.

Head of a Lion Dance Costume
Chinese Lion Dance dates back to Tang Dynasty. It is a combination of art, history, and Kung Fu. Lion dances are often performed during the Chinese Lunar New Year to chase away ghosts and evil spirits. The Lion Dance is performed by two dancers in a lion costume, one manipulating the lion’s head while the other manipulating the lion's body.

Qilin is a mythical creature in Chinese and other East Asian cultures. The name is a combination of the two characters Qi “male,” and lin, “female.” Traditionally its appearance coincides with the birth or death of a sage or illustrious ruler. Today, Qilin is revered as a lucky omen, a powerful guardian, and a popular source of inspiration for ritual dances. Because they are associated with heaven, and the gods, dancers who mimic Qilin can bring great prosperity to their communities.

Dragon King of the East Sea
Dragon King of the East Sea is a mythical character in Chinese culture, also named Ao Guang. He is the most prestigious divine ruler of the ocean among four major dragon kings. He has the ability to transform to human shape and lives in an underwater crystal palace. He has his own royal court and commands an army comprising various marine creatures. He can also manipulate the weather and bring rainfall. 


Cuju - This song is inspired by the game cuju, an ancient Chinese game considered to be one of the earliest forms of soccer. Like in soccer, players move the ball with their feet toward a net and may not use their hands.

Bejing Opera - Bejing Opera is a particular style of Chinese Opera. It is one of the most well-known styles. The vocal roles, tones, and movement are very specific. Watch and see how this style of opera is both similar to and different from the Western-style of opera.

Legend of Nian – Celebrate Lunar New Year and learn more about the Chinese legend of the Nian, a mythical creature that has inspired New Year customs and traditions. This video is courtesy of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States.

Yang-Style Knot Tutorial – Learn more about the history and tradition of Yang-style Chinses knot tying. Then follow along during a step-by-step tutorial and create your own beautiful Lunar New Year adornment. This video is courtesy of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States.

Dough Figure Sculpture Demonstration – Follow along as master sculptor Zhang Minzhong, demonstrates how to create a traditional Chinese dough figure sculpture to help ring in the Lunar New Year. This video is courtesy of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States.

Paper Cutting Tutorial – Learn more about traditional Chinese paper cutting. This celebrated folk handicraft is characterized by its strong creative force and rich cultural significance. Then follow along with step-by-step instructions and create your own intricate paper cut design to celebrate the Lunar New Year. This video is courtesy of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States.

Lion Dance – The Lion Dance is one of the most time-honored Chinese traditions for Lunar New Year. Learn more about the history and unique regional customs relating to the Lion Dance performance. This video is courtesy of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States.

Qilin Dance – Learn more about the mythical creature Qilin and the history and significance of the Qilin Dance performed during Lunar New Year as a symbol of peace, happiness, prosperity, and wealth. This video is courtesy of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States.