Why I Pass Down Chinese New Year Traditions to My Children

Disclosure: I received promotional consideration from Panda Express. All opinions are my own.

Panda Express Dragon Crafts
Passing down Chinese New Year traditions in the Year of the Rooster.

Celebrating Chinese New Year and passing down traditions to my children is important to me. My children are of mixed Chinese-White heritage. I sometimes wonder if I’m instilling enough of their Chinese side into their lives. They are expose to the White side of the heritage the majority of the time, so they are much more familiar with it. I’m glad we celebrate all the American holidays and traditions. But I also don’t want to lose the over 2,000 years of history my family can trace back in China because I didn’t do enough to pass down that side to my children.

Panda Express Dragon Puppet
My daughter enjoyed making a Dragon Puppet for Chinese New Year.

We do not live in an area with many Asian families. There are some Chinese New Year celebrations within an hour’s drive, but often the dates or times don’t work out, or it’s difficult to be away all day because of my toddler. My parents live out of state, so my children do not get everyday exposure to hearing the Chinese language. I know how to speak some Mandarin, but am not fluent. I take my daughter to Chinese School every Sunday, and as I help her do homework I’m learning along the way, too.

Panda Express Girls in Chinese Clothes
Kids love opening lucky red envelopes filled with money at Chinese New Year!

When we celebrate Chinese New Year which lasts for 15 days, I tell my kids how the holiday is the most important one in China. It’s a time for families and friends to come together to usher in good fortune and health for the new year. We discuss the meaning behind each tradition, and I read them picture books about the holiday.

My kids love the red envelopes the best. Traditionally, elders give children and unmarried young adults money to wish them good luck. The color red also represents good luck. We also made some crafts and decorations, such as a dragon puppet and foldout paper dragons for the table.

Practice makes perfect when it comes to eating with chopsticks.
Practice makes perfect when it comes to eating with chopsticks.

My children love to wear Chinese New Year outfits because they’re so shiny and pretty. However, I do make them change before eating since stains on those materials are difficult to remove!  Eating a feast for Chinese New Year represents the abundance we want to bring in for the new year. Feasts often include ten dishes, but for our celebration I cooked only a few dishes since our family is small and the kids don’t eat a lot.

Panda Express Dumplings
Dumpling symbolize wealth so eat up!

Each dish is symbolic. We ate dumplings which symbolize wealth since they are shaped like ancient Chinese good ingots. Noodles are a must because their length represents long life, so don’t break the noodles! Chicken represents a good marriage and the coming together of families. I made a Ginger Chicken dish from a recipe book.

Panda Express Noodles
Noodles represent long life so remember not to break them.

This year is the Year of the Rooster. If you were born in 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, or 2017, this is your year. Roosters are hardworking, courageous, and sharp. Panda Express, known for its fast-casual American Chinese cuisine, marks the Year of the Rooster with a campaign to share the delight of Chinese New Year and to educate guests about the rich traditions and history of the holiday. After all, the message about honoring family is cross-cultural.

Panda Express Chicken
Chicken represents fertility and the coming together of family.

I am thrilled at the extensive Chinese New Year resources Panda Express provides through its website and restaurants. My girls really loved exploring its interactive website, CelebrateCNY.com. The site features an animated Fortune Tales video about the 15-day Chinese New Year festival. The site also includes Panda Express’ Learn with Me program for teachers and parents which features downloadable activities for kids and a classroom curriculum for educators.

Panda Express Chinese New Year
Celebrate Chinese New Year with Panda Express [Image: Panda Express]
To bring to life the universality of Chinese New Year, Panda Express and PepsiCo, the restaurant’s exclusive beverage partner for nearly 30 years, have created a touching short film about the power of family and friends, traditions, and food that brings people together to celebrate. View it by clicking here.

Panda Express Celebration Kit Spread
Panda Express Celebration Kit

In addition to the helpful resources on CelebrateCNY.com, Panda Express invites guests to discover the joy of Chinese New Year at one of its 1,900 locations until February 21. Order dishes that are symbolic of good luck, such as Panda Express’ Honey Walnut Shrimp and Chow Mein. Panda Express is also offering this special promotion:

Celebration Kit – With every order of a Family Feast (three entrees and two large sides), guests will receive a Celebration Kit which includes a red table runner, Chinese New Year stickers, a dragon car decal, “Know Your CNY” card game, and two red envelopes to help commemorate the holiday and welcome good fortune with family and friends.

Panda Express Game
Playing the “Know Your CNY” game.

We had so much fun playing the “Know Your CNY” game. Without looking at the picture, one person holds a card on her forehead while the others provide clues as to what’s on the card. The person with the most correct guesses wins. You can make it as hard or easy as you like. For example, set a time limit for answering the questions to make it more challenging. Due to my kids’ ages, we did an easy version and just described each card until they guessed it.

Thank you to Panda Express for helping me to pass down Chinese New Year traditions to my children. For more information on Panda Express and Chinese New Year traditions, visit CelebrateCNY.com. Follow Panda Express on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and join the conversation using #CelebrateCNY.


  1. Great post, Maria! My family lives out of state and my local community is also more Southern than ethnic even though the larger county is multicultural, so it’s always a big effort on my part to teach or celebrate Chinese heritage and traditions. That’s wonderful that you are doing that while they’re still young.

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