Through hongbaos and oranges, preschoolers learn about gratitude and kindness
Christian Preschool Alliance // February 8, 2022, 3:44 pm
Children at Bethesda (Depot Walk) Kindergarten decorated a paper bag for Mandarin oranges and then role played the offering of oranges to their elders, along with a spoken blessing in Mandarin and English. All photos courtesy of Christian Preschool Alliance.
For many children, the Lunar New Year is an exciting time of new clothes, gifts of money in hongbaos (red packets), and the presentation of two Mandarin oranges to their elders.
It is also a good opportunity to appreciate the Chinese culture with the light of the Christian faith.
At two preschools that bring Bible stories and Christian values into the curriculum, the children also learn about respect and gratitude as they explore the spirit of Chinese New Year through activities such as group talk, role play, art, storytelling and music.
Kindness without reward
Chinese New Year is a good opportunity to guard children against having a mindset that is materialistic and self-entitled.
The popular practice of giving and receiving of angpows (red packets) could potentially lead to a mindless desire for money without knowing the meaning of the blessings intended.
The children are taught to return the blessing of angpows with loving wishes of good health, success and happiness.
Therefore, teachers at Ascension Kindergarten, led by Mrs Dianne Seet-Swee, the Principal, share the symbolism of giving and receiving of blessings. The children are taught to return the blessing of angpows with loving wishes of good health, success and happiness.
Another way to lovingly express CNY blessings is by honouring their parents by being grateful and respectful in obedience. Just as God has commands us to love one another as He has loved us. (John 13:34)
God commands us specifically to honour our father and mother. (Ephesians 6:2)
In our community and social circles, we are to lovingly care for each other, young and old.
Another way to lovingly express Chinese New Year blessings is by honouring their parents by being grateful and respectful.
Teachers at Ascension Kindergarten also help the children to be aware of people beyond their immediate families, and to acknowledge and address other elders respectfully. These elders include the aunties (helpers) who care for them at home, and the cooks and cleaners at their kindergarten.
The children are taught to show love and respect to all they interact with as the Bible teaches us because we are blessed by God to be a blessing to others. As written in 1 John 4:19, we love because He first loved us.
Teachers and other adults close to the children can model these values in their interaction with others.
Children are also taught how kindness – an abstract concept – looks, sounds and feels like in different settings. Teachers share, for instance, that children could be kind by doing good without expecting a reward – like helping Mummy by packing their own books and toys. They could also be polite by playing well with each other in school and with siblings at home.
Even doing small chores such as folding clothes or bringing their dishes to the sink builds relationships with others – and character.
At Ascension Kindergarten, teachers in the classroom and parents at home talk to the children about kind deeds they wish to do. The children write these on Blessing Vouchers and “redeem” them by showing and telling their friends about them in class.
They also discuss the word “blessings” – what it means and how to count them. Little children are then invited to think of the blessings they have and how they can share one.
Mandarin oranges and thanksgiving
Perhaps the most common ritual practised during Chinese New Year is the presentation of two Mandarin oranges with a bow of respect to parents and grandparents.
“Chinese New Year is a time to experience God’s command to honour and respect our parents and elders.”
At Bethesda (Depot Walk) Kindergarten, children decorated a paper bag with a greeting of the season as part of an art project. They were given two oranges and a tract to place in the bag.
The children of various races then role played the offering of oranges and recited a blessing in Mandarin and English.
“The cross-cultural sharing comes very naturally to the children and their parents appreciate such exposure”, said Mrs Chan.
What is taught is not just cultural. In a subtle way, the value of respect was infused through the expression of gratitude.
Said Mrs Chan Lai Youk, the Principal: “Chinese New Year is a time to experience God’s command to honour and respect our parents and elders. As Leviticus 19:32 says, ‘You shall rise before the aged, and defer to the old; and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.’”
In another activity, Teacher Sheila Loh led the children in making a paper orange ornament with leaves that carried words of thanksgiving. She asked the children to name the things they were grateful for.
In making the paper oranges, they remember that Chinese New Year is a time to celebrate their blessings – not just of material things, but also of the natural world and of friends and family.
Are we little children in our hearts?
The simple ways children are taught to catch the values of kindness, respect and gratitude during Chinese New Year remind us of how Jesus said of little children that the Kingdom of God belongs to them. (Matthew 19:14)
As we celebrate our Christian and Chinese heritage during this season, we might want to check if we ourselves have remained “little children” in our hearts and spirits.
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