Gung Hay Fat Choy!

This excerpt comes to us from member Brigid Finucane, she is a contributor for the wonderful resource, Pre K + K Sharing. Chinese New Year is January 31.

Lucky Candy on the Year of the Horse! c2014 Brigid Finucane

Hello everyone! Ms. Brigid here, from Merit School of Music  in Chicago, IL. Happy Year of the Horse! This week we’re exploring resources for the Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival. Over a billion people observe Chinese New Year – in fact during the two weeks it’s celebrated, from the new moon to the full moon, the largest human migration on earth takes place as family members travel to be with each other for New Years Eve on January 30th.

I have been celebrating the lunar festival for over a decade in my classrooms, each year adding new layers. My observance stems from the good fortune of being placed at the Chinese American Service League (CASL) as the Pre-K music teacher through Bridges, Merit’s outreach program.  CASL was my first Merit teaching site, and one I’ll forever cherish. To have a window into such a rich culture and community is a gift.

Chinese New Year, as with other holidays celebrated this time of year, centers on Family, Feasts, Light (fireworks, lanterns), and Community (parties, parades, visiting). Specific songs are associated with the holiday and similar preparations take place – cleaning and decorating the home, shopping, preparing symbolic food, wearing special (new) clothes, and making arrangements to host or travel. My students, families and teachers explore these similarities in class, and talk about the differences – like Lion Dancers and Dancing Dragons! Happy memories of holiday gatherings are still fresh in the kiddos’ minds, and connections are easily made!


My favorite Chinese New Song is Gung Hay Fat Choy by Nancy Stewart, a CMN member living in Seattle. Sheet music, an mp3 and an instrumental version are available.

In a few perfectly crafted verses the song chronicles the key features – starting with preparations and ending with dragons dancing and a nod to the Lantern Festival, which concludes the holiday on the 15th day (full moon). The song even notes how the starting date is determined:

“The new moon tells us exactly when

We celebrate with family and friends.”

The hauntingly beautiful chorus is one that all, even the youngest, can sing:

“Gung Hay Fat Choy!  Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Sing Happy New Year!  Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Feng Yang Hua Gu or Flower Drum Song is a popular traditional song associated with the New Year. The end of the song mimics the sound of the drum.  There are many YouTube versions, ranging from dance troupes to instrumental ensembles.


Storynory is an online storytelling site. Stories can be listened to or read:

Chinese Years of the Animals

“In Chinese astrology, each year is named after an animal, and if you are born in that year, you take some of that animal’s characteristics. This is the story of how each year go its name,…”

Chinese Year of the Horse

The Horse That Ran Away. This story  “…shows that you can never tell if an event will turn out to be good or bad luck in the long term. The idea is part of Taoist philosophy, which teaches that you must live  in harmony with nature and what it brings you, good or bad.”


  The Dancing Dragon perfectly captures the excitement of the New Year parade. The book’s unique accordion format unfolds to reveal the dragon!

  This Next New Year is a book about the promise of the new year and a Chinese-Korean boy who has big dreams. It captures the heart completely.  Unfortunately, it is hard to purchase – but available in many libraries.

 Rabbit’s Gift, based on a Chinese fable, is a gentle tale of a turnip and the power of sharing and caring for others. Margaret Hooton from CMN, introduced the book to me, and we both wrote verses to go with the story.

Margaret:                                                            Brigid:

Turnips are so sweet,                           La, la, la, la, la.

And they’re good to eat!                      La, la, la, la, la.

On a cold winter day                            Sharing with friends

Turnips are a treat!                              Is a gift from the heart.

We’ve “piggybacked” our lyrics onto the first four measures of Feng Yang Hua Gu or Flower Drum Song, above.

Year of the Horse c2014 Brigid Finucane

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