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Happy New Year Classroom Activities

Janelle Cox

New Year’s Day has been celebrated since the ancient times, and just because your students will be home for New Year, doesn’t mean that you can’t celebrate it with them in school with classroom activities. Bid farewell to the old as you start anew with these festive-filled classroom activities that celebrate tradition as well as cheer.

New Year’s Customs Classroom Activities

Take your students on a worldwide tour of traditional New Year’s customs by partaking in the following activity. Give each student a few sheets of blank paper that they can make into a flap book. To make a flap book, all students have to do is fold their papers in half, then make two equally spaced cuts through the top layer. On the first two flaps, the student will write the name of a country, and on the inner flap he/she will illustrate what that country’s New Year’s traditions are. To get the information for these worldwide flap books, use the following facts:

  • Bahamas – On Dec. 26 and Dec. 31, people from the Bahamas would dress up in colorful costumes and march in parade called the “Junkanoo.”
  • Greece – On New Year’s, people eat a cake that has a coin baked into it. This cake, called the “Saint Basil,” is popular, and the person who gets the coin, is said to have good luck.
  • Israel – People blow a special horn called the “Shofar” during a religious service called Rosh Hashanah. This is celebrated in the summer or the fall time.
  • Japan – Japanese people ring a bell 108 times on New Year’s Eve because they believe people have 108 problems.
  • Spain – People from this country eat a grape every time the bell rings at midnight on New Year’s Eve because they believe for each grape they eat, they will have a month of good luck.

New Year’s Resolutions

Explain to your students that a common New Year’s tradition is make a resolution for the upcoming New Year. They can choose a resolution to break a bad habit or to start a new, good one. Instead of having students only make one resolution that they most likely won’t stick with, have them make one for each month that they are in school. Give each student 10 pieces of paper and one brown paper bag. Their job is to write one resolution on each piece of paper and put it into the bag and seal it. On the first day of each month, students will open their bags and blindly choose a resolution for that month. They can tape it to their desks as a daily reminder of what they should be doing.

Memories of a Great Year

Another common tradition on New Year’s is to think of the past year and all of the good memories that you have had. Have children brainstorm a list of all of their favorite memories from the past year and write them down on a scrap piece of paper. Then, have students choose one memory that really sticks out to them and write it on a paper party hat. Instruct students that they can decorate this memory hat in any way that they choose. Next, collect students’ memory hats and put them onto the bulletin board and title it, “Hats Off to a Great Year.”

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Good Luck Charms

People in other countries have different customs and beliefs when it comes to having good luck in the New Year. People from China believe that if they find money wrapped in red paper, it’s good luck. People in India give others lemons and limes for good luck, while people in Japan swallow noodles whole because they believe it’s good luck. Some people in the United States carry a rabbit’s foot or a rock because they think it brings good luck. Others believe if they find a four-leaf clover, then that is good luck. Have students think of what will bring them good luck in the New Year. Then, have them illustrate a picture and tell their classmates why they think it will bring them good luck this year.

New Year’s Literature

Toast the New Year with a few of these children’s favorites.

  • “We Celebrate New Year” by Bobbie Kalman
  • “Happy New Year!” By Emery Bernhard
  • “New Year’s Day” by David E. Marx
  • “First Night” by Harriet Ziefert
  • “Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution” by Par Miller

Do you celebrate New Year’s in your classroom? What types of activities do you with your students? Please feel free to leave your ideas in the comment section below, we would love to hear your thoughts.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.

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