Information and activities are from KRP’s Ultimate Holiday Activity Guide from the NIE Institute.
New Years Day (federal)
In Ancient Rome, for example, people gave each other gifts of branches from sacred trees or coins with pictures of Janus, the god of gates, doors, and beginnings and after whom the month of January was named.
In early America, colonists in New England celebrated New Year’s Day by firing guns into the air and shouting, perhaps a precursor to the modern-day custom of making noise to ring in the new year.
Today, we celebrate with such rituals as New Year’s Eve parties, visiting friends and relatives, attending religious services, watching football games, and making resolutions.
1. Talk to kids about calendars. Tell them that Jan. 1 is the first day of the year on the Gregorian calendar, a calendar that was adopted by most Western nations in the 16th century. Then divide the class into 12 groups and assign each group a month of the calendar to learn about. Ask the groups to create a pictorial calendar page representing their months. Have them use pictures and other graphics cut out of the newspaper to illustrate activities, events, and special days during the month. Bind the pages into a calendar to display throughout the school year.
2. One ritual many Americans observe on New Year’s Day is the making of resolutions. Talk about resolutions people might make and whether it’s easy to stick to them. Then ask students to turn to the newspaper’s comics and pick a character that needs help making a resolution. Have each student write down the resolution and create a “plan of action” for carrying it out.
3. People in different countries celebrate New Year’s Day in different ways. In Belgium, for example, children write their parents New Year’s messages on decorated paper. In China, where the new year doesn’t begin until sometime between Jan. 21 and Feb. 19, adults dress up as dragons. And in Japan, people decorate their front doors and visit shrines. Ask students to find a story in the main news section of the newspaper that originates in a country other than the United States. Then ask them to research that country’s New Year’s customs and share their findings with the class. Plan a class New Year’s festival that incorporates some of those customs.
4. Using words cut out of newspaper ads, have students write a cinquain to describe New Year’s Day. A cinquain is a five-line poem: Line 1 has one word; Line 2 has two words; Line 3 has three words; Line 4 has four words; and Line 5 has one word.