Chinese New Year

Page 1 – Introduction

This page outlines how the material on Chinese New Year can be used by teachers and students of social studies and history. The material can be a springboard into further topics associated with the experiences of Chinese in New Zealand. The links to the historic events offer opportunities for further study.

It is not our intention to provide an exhaustive list of teaching activities but rather to offer ideas to help the busy teacher get started.

We welcome feedback. Please use the comments box at the bottom of this page.

For a comprehensive account of the story of Chinese in New Zealand see Te Ara: the encyclopedia of New Zealand.


For many New Zealanders, 31 December means parties and celebrations to welcome the new year. These celebrations are an important way of marking the passage of time as well as heralding new beginnings. But for the more than 100,000 ethnic Chinese who call New Zealand home (about 2% of the population) – and the more than one billion other Chinese on the planet – 31 December is in many ways just another day. The Chinese celebrate their own New Year or Spring Festival, which begins on the first day of the Chinese lunar calendar and ends with the Lantern Festival 14 days later. Because the track of the new moon changes from year to year, Chinese New Year can begin anytime between late January and mid-February. 

Chinese are the largest non-European, non-Polynesian minority group in New Zealand. Three-quarters of the ethnic Chinese population living here are immigrants, so Chinese New Year is becoming an increasingly significant event in the New Zealand calendar.

Social studies

The current 'Culture and heritage' strand in the social studies curriculum is an ideal place for teachers to start incorporating Chinese New Year into their programmes. The emphasis on customs and traditions and how they are retained and developed makes Chinese New Year an excellent case study. Chinese New Year could become a school-wide focus for its duration.

Chinese New Year could also act as a springboard into further topics associated with the experiences of Chinese people in New Zealand, past and present. For instance why did early Chinese settlers to New Zealand experience racism? How does the history of these early settlers compare with the experiences of recent Chinese settlers?

Teachers and students at Level 5 might want to look at Chinese New Year from the perspective of 'Place and environment' and the consequences of the migration of people and ideas. How has New Zealand's social and cultural calendar changed as a result of Chinese settlement here?

The Chinese New Year is also good time to consider how different cultures measure time. How we mark days and months and indeed how we number years is something we often don’t think about, but they are all important aspects of cultural identity and history.


The experiences of Chinese people in New Zealand is of direct relevance to the NCEA studies. Issues like the poll tax and other anti-Chinese measures make excellent topics for research at all levels of history programmes.

How to cite this page

'Chinese New Year', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 5-Jul-2017

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