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Year of the Dragon

Chinese New Year 2012

The dragon is a fantastical creature of myth and legend. Within the Western mythos, they are often wicked beasts who do evil and need to be killed. However, within the Eastern philosophy, they are divine and mystical creatures. Chinese Dragons are connected with storm clouds and rain. Chinese legends give them special powers so they can fly, swim and walk. The Chinese Dragon, unlike the Western imagination, combines the features of many animals such a stag’s horns, the sparkling scales of a fish and the footpads of a tiger.

As one of the twelve zodiac signs in the Chinese horoscope, the dragon is associated with all that is good and lucky. This makes 2012 extra special because the Chinese New Year, which falls on January 23rd, welcomes the Year of the Dragon.

 Enter the Dragon

There is a story that tells of how the Buddha once invited all the animals to meet him on the day of the Chinese New Year. He decided to name each year after the animals that attended and announced that the people born under the signs will share the animal’s characteristics. However, the most popular legend about the animal zodiac involves the Jade Emperor. The emperor wanted a way to measure time, so on his birthday he invited 13 animals from his kingdom to a swimming race. He proclaimed that the first 12 animals that crossed the dangerous river would each have a year of the zodiac named in their honor. The beautifully illustrated The Great Race Book - The Story of Chinese Zodiac tells the story of how the animals competed, tricked and challenged each other in order to become the rulers of the zodiac.  The exciting story is followed by notes on the Chinese calendar, important Chinese holidays, and a chart outlining the animal signs based on birth years.

To be the Dragon

Those born in the following years fall under the dragon: 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024, 2036, and 2048.

People born under the year of the dragon are often thought to be born leaders. They are also supposed to be extremely lucky and well-respected by those around them. Some characteristics of those ruled by the dragon are perfectionism, idealism coupled with an artistic and intuitive nature. Dragons are thought to be invincible and so the people of this sign are supposed to be extremely confident in all things.

The Dragon Symbolism

The dragon as a symbol has always been associated with the Emperor of China. In fact the dragon was used in various ways to indicate hierarchy. During the Zhou dynasty (1046–256 BC) the five-clawed dragon was assigned to the emperor. A dragon with four claws was for the nobles, three-clawed dragons indicated ministers. However during the Qin Dynasty (221 to 207 BC), three-clawed dragons were reserved for commoners. The image of the dragon has a very high place in Chinese society and it is considered disrespectful to disfigure it in any way or use it with negative meanings.

 The Year of the Dragon in the Classroom

The Chinese New Year provides the perfect opportunity to introduce Chinese culture to the classroom. If the class is already familiar with Chinese culture, then use the upcoming celebrations to help them join in the fun. Here are some tips:

1.      The Chinese will begin their New Year celebration on January 8th. Parades and dragons dances will form a part of the celebration this year. Begin your own classroom celebrations by investing in a Chinese Dragon Marionette.

2.      Get your classroom to be further involved by decorating the class with vibrant mini-lanterns, or colourful paper lanterns.

3.      Initiate discussion in the classroom with the Chinese New Year book. It is filled with fun facts and stories about the New Year.  

The beauty of a multi-cultural world is that it provides bottomless material to compare and contrast different cultures and practices. Children will not only enjoy learning a new culture, they will come to appreciate the traditions of their own. Don’t let this Year of the Dragon pass you by!

Multicultural resources, Indigenous, Maori, Cultural Diversity in childcare, multiculturalism, cultural learning resources