Holiday Boredow Buster: Secret Agent Man

Ever since kids first started raiding wardrobes for dress-up costumes, there's been a market for fake mustaches. Whether your little ones are secret agents, cops or cowboys, a good set of whiskers will always come in handy.

Scotch tape
Plain heavy stock paper
Heavy black paper
Exacto knife
Colored scrubbers
Double-sided tape

Holiday Boredom Buster: Make Your Mark

Crafting your own Chinese chop



Whether it’s a birthday card or their latest crayon creation, all young artists should have their own distinctive seal, or chop, to make their mark. Instead of signing your name, stamp your own chop to give your works their own special look. Traditionally, Chinese chops were carved from stone with chisels, but pens and styrofoam are a lot easier for young hands.

Ball point pen or pencil
Styrofoam (try a take-out container)
Wine cork
Stamp pad


Difficulty Level: Easy
Time: 15 minutes
Ages: 3-10

Beijing State of Mind: Unlock the capital’s cultural side with these activities

As we go through the daily grind, it’s easy to forget that we’re living in a place rich with art, history, and culture. Throughout its various incarnations – Zhongdu, Yanjing, Khanbaliq, Peiping – Beijing has remained the political center of the country for most of the past 800 years. To help you get in touch with the city’s past, we’ve put together a roundup of family-friendly cultural activities. Happy exploring!

Xin Nian Kuai Le! How Chinese families celebrate Chinese New Year

Spring Festival (Chunjie or 春节) kicks off the year of the Monkey, beginning with Chinese New Year on February 8, and ending 15 days later with Lantern Festival on February 22. As Christmas is very much about family for some westerners, so Chinese New Year is a time to gather together and share time with their families. With the Chinese Diaspora as far-flung and extensive as it is, trains, planes, and automobiles will be packed with family members expressing their filial piety by returning to their hometowns. We look into the traditions of two Beijing families to find out more about the country’s most important holiday.

The Cao-Doherty Family
Australian Miles Doherty teaches at Beijing International Bilingual School (BIBA). His Chinese wife Ying Cao is a stay at home mother. Their son Patrick (age 2), was born in Beijing and attends ECC-2 at BIBA.

Monkey Business: A rundown of Beijing’s best temple fairs

For Beijingers, attending a miaohui (temple fair) comes second only to the family reunion dinner when it comes to Chinese New Year observances. Though miaohui started taking shape as early as the Wei dynasty (220-264 AD), the temple fair as we know it dates in earnest from the Tang era (618-907 AD).

As Buddhism and Taoism gained influence in China, temples started hosting festivals and celebrations tied to local deities and figures. Over time, these events started taking on cultural and commercial dimensions, with the development of temple markets (miaoshi) and folk performances.

During the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368), the Quanzhen sect of Taoism spread throughout northern China and it was common for temple fairs to celebrate the achievements of Taoist figures. To this day, Taoist sites such as Beijing’s White Cloud Temple continue to hold temple fairs during Spring Festival.

Editor's Note: In the Home Stretch

For the majority of Chinese people, Spring Festival is one of the most anticipated times of the year. Like millions of other Beijingers, I’m eagerly anticipating the end of the lunar calendar. I’ll be traveling home for an extended break with family this Chinese New Year. Distance, migration, and the speed of modern life make it hard to gather the whole family in one place at one time. So I’ll make two stops on my journey into the west; one to see my brother’s family in Slovakia, and the second to be with my family and friends in Ireland.

Indulge: Bright and Shiny - Linsey Crisler glitters at Z Hairdressing

Linsey Crisler and her husband Kenneth Jackman both work at the US Embassy in Beijing. They moved here in January 2013, with their three children; sons Caleb (age 9) and Isaac (7) who attend Yew Chung International School of Beijing (YCIS), and daughter Claire (3). The family plans to stay in Beijing for the holidays and celebrate with friends. “My favorite thing about the holidays is the music,” says Crisler. “I love going to concerts and performances and hearing it piped into stores and restaurants. I feel like every year I start smiling from the moment I hear the first bars of “Jingle Bells!”

Birthday Bash: Ice Cold - Chill out with a birthday party at Le Cool

Creating ice for hockey and ice skating isn’t as simple as pouring water on the ground and waiting for it to freeze. Achieving a perfect flat consistency involves successively pouring and leveling thin layers of chilled saltwater (which has a lower freezing temperature than fresh water) over a period of several days. Before that, the water must be purified to remove oxygen and trace minerals – two elements that can make the ice too hard or too soft to skate on.

Talking Shop: The Very Thing - Turn your child's drawing into a unique toy or rug

New Zealander Graci Kim has lived in Beijing for the past 18 months, working as a diplomat at the New Zealand Embassy. This past August, she began a social enterprise, My Thingymabob.
“Championing children’s well-being is at the heart of everything My Thingymabob does,” says Kim. “That’s why all profits for 2015 will be donated to Childfund.”

Ice, Ice, Baby: Snow and ice activities

Winter sports are lots of fun - ask any kid who's just scored the winning goal during an ice hockey game or done a figure-eight on a frozen lake. This month, we speak to Beijing international school students about the different winter sports and activities they enjoy.

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