Make a Dragon Print
Written by Jennifer K Mahal   

A dance of luck, performed by a mythical creature that most people in Western culture find scary, will happen across the country on Friday, February 16. What is the dance and who performs it? It’s called the Dragon Dance. On Chinese New Year, in Chinatowns across America, teams of dancers will move a large dragon puppet on sticks in waves to bring good fortune to their communities. The longer the dragon, the more luck it is said to bring!

Chinatowns are areas in cities where people are mostly of Chinese descent. Did you know that Santa Cruz once had a Chinatown? Actually, it has had several over the past century. The Front Street Chinatown of the 1870s, according to historians, was the largest one with laundries, stores and market gardens. It’s gone now, but it’s almost certain that Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival, was celebrated there.

The traditional Chinese calendar is lunisolar. That means the year is solar, determined by the position of the sun, but the months are lunar, determined by the position of the moon. Because of this, the Chinese calendar can have from 12 to 13 months in a year and tends to be 20 to 50 days behind the familiar Gregorian Calendar.

In Western culture, astrological signs of the zodiac are divided by 12 periods in the year — Capricorn, Virgo, Aquarius, etc. In Chinese tradition, astrological signs of the zodiac are divided into 12-year cycles. Just as some people believe their lives are affected by the astrological month they were born in, it is the year that is important in Chinese astrology. The twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. Most of 2017 was the Year of the Rooster. Starting on Feb. 17, it will be the Year of the Dog!

In fairy tales, dragons are thought of as fearsome creatures to be slayed by a knight. But in China, the dragon is a symbol of power, strength and good luck for people who are deserving. Make your own paper dragon to dance on Chinese New Year.

To make the dragon, you will need:

* Several Colors of Construction Paper

* Ruler

* Scissors

* A Pencil

* An Egg Carton

* Markers or Paint

* Glue Stick

* Chopsticks or Popsicle Sticks

* Scotch Tape

* Optional: Ribbons, Glitter, Tissue Paper, Pipe Cleaner

Measure a two-inch strip of construction paper using the ruler. Mark the strip with a pencil. Measure and mark at least 7 more strips. Cut them out. There should be at least eight strips of construction paper.

Take two of the differently colored strips and paste one on top of the other in an L shape or a right angle. Fold the bottom color over the top to make an L the other direction. Now take the other color and fold it over the top. Keep folding until you get to the end. Then open up the last fold and paste a new color strip to each end. Once again, fold the bottom color over the top. Repeat the folds. Add at least two more sets of paper strips. At the last fold, glue the ends down. This is the body of the dragon.

Cut a cup out of the egg carton. Using paints or markers, color the outside of the cup green or red for the head of the dragon. Draw eyes and a nose. Use construction paper or ribbon or tissue paper to make a tongue. Glue that inside the dragon’s mouth. Decorate the dragon’s head with glitter, ribbon, whatever is on hand. Glue the body to the dragon’s head. Tape a chopstick or popsicle stick to the underside of the head. Tape a second stick near the end of the dragon’s body.

Use the sticks to make the dragon dance! Happy Chinese New Year.

Discover more science and art at the Santa Cruz Children’s Museum of Discovery in the Capitola Mall. Learn more at

Jennifer K Mahal, who writes children’s books under the name Jenni Kaye, is a volunteer with the Santa Cruz Children’s Museum of Discovery. She lives in Santa Cruz with her husband and two children.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 January 2018 22:10