Celebrate Culture & Honor Heritage All Month Long
Every May is Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AANHPI). It’s a time to celebrate the heritage and culture of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the U.S. The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the U.S. on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869 since the majority of workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants. Learn more about the month at asianpacificheritage.gov.
Explore the countries, histories and cultures of AANHPI with our ideas.
Make it a point to learn about the diversity of countries of Asia and the Pacific Islands. Can your kids spot all these countries on a map or globe? Can you? Asia is the largest continent, and the area contains 48 countries; some you may be familiar with and others not so much. The Pacific Islands of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia include 24 countries.
Learn more about the contributions of people, especially notable figures, together. Fred Toyosaburo Korematsu was a civil rights activist who resisted the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. Patsy T. Mink was the first Asian American woman and woman of color in Congress. Did you know Vera Wang became an independent bridal wear designer at age 40? Have your kids create a project about a person who inspires them.
Children’s books are an excellent way to introduce cultures, holidays, peoples and experiences that are different than your own. Books represent a variety of backgrounds, and for older children, they may launch a deeper discussion. Check out “Chinese New Year Colors” for ages 0-3, “Sunday Funday in Koreatown” for ages 3-7 and “Brother’s Keeper” for ages 8-12. For older kids and yourself, try the new book, “We Are Here: 30 Inspiring Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Who Have Shaped the United States,” for profiles of artists, activities, scientists, writers and more.
Watch Movies and Shows
American Public Television offers Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month educational programming. “Barakan Discovers: Ainu – A New Generation” follows the history and cultural heritage efforts of young Ainu, the indigenous people of northern Japan, to restore their heritage. “Meet and Eat at Lee’s Garden” explores how early Chinese restaurants played an important role in the social history of Chinese and Jewish communities. Find more at aptonline.org or pbs.org.
Fictional films allow viewers to step into the lives of the characters. Check out some of these family-friendly films for a movie night. “Moana” is based on stories from Polynesian mythology. “Lilo & Stitch” is set in a fictional Hawaii town. Two siblings reconnect with their Hawaiian heritage in “Finding ‘Ohana.” “Raya and the Last Dragon” uses Southeast Asian influences to tell its fantasy story. Rhea Kumar lives with her tight-knit multigenerational family and wants to be an EDM DJ in “Spin.” The animated musical “Over the Moon” is based on Chinese legend, and “Wish Dragon” is based on Chinese fables; both are on Netflix.
Be an Armchair Traveler
Use Google Earth to “visit” historic locations. Explore the Taj Mahal in India, the Towers of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the Itsukushima Shrine in Japan and more. The National Park Service has information on special sites that honor Asian American and Pacific Islanders in the U.S. Take a virtual visit to the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center.
Search for music and dance performances from the different countries that are part of AANHPI. Search YouTube for the music of Hawaii, traditional Samoan music, Carnatic music with origins in Southern India, traditional Khmer music from Cambodia and classical Indian Bharatanatyam dance.
Attend Cultural Events
Make plans to attend more events and festivals celebrating other countries. Throughout May, the Children’s Museum of Atlanta will celebrate the Heritage Month with activities and crafts designed to showcase the contributions of different Asians and Pacific Islanders. Check to see if your community is hosting a celebration; Suwanee is holding one on May 19. The JapanFest in Atlanta will be held on September 16-17. At the beginning of the year, many places across metro Atlanta hold Lunar New Year events.
Visit a Japanese Garden
In Japan, some of the most beautiful gardens consist of rocks and stones, as part of a tradition following the arrival of Zen Buddhism from China. Zen emphasizes the importance of meditation and a simpler, more mindful outlook. Travel to Gibbs Gardens in Cherokee County to see “Tsukiyami,” which is the largest Japanese Garden in the nation and features seven spring-fed ponds with islands, bridges, cherry blossoms in the spring, stone Japanese lanterns and more. Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Japanese Garden combines several styles of traditional Japanese gardens. The Japanese Zen Garden at Grand Hyatt Atlanta in Buckhead features winding paths, a bridge, a 30-foot waterfall and plenty of greenery.
Make a Craft
Origami is the Japanese art of paper folding. Learn how to make flowers, birds, hearts, animals and more at origami.guide.
Paper lanterns originate from China and Japan. They were originally made from paper or silk with a bamboo or wood frame and lit with a candle. Make your own paper lanterns with construction paper, scissors, a pencil, decorations, a ruler and tape or stapler; find full instructions at pbs.org.
A lei is a garland or wreath common in Hawaii, across Polynesia and the Philippines. Make your own with string, construction paper and straws; find full instructions at emmaowl.com.
Diwali, or Dipawali, is India’s biggest and most important holiday. The Festival of Lights gets its name from the row of clay lamps that Indians light outside their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness. Make a “lamp” out of salt dough; find full instructions at learningandexploringthroughplay.com.
Have Fun with Food
Eating at a new restaurant is a delightful way to try a different cuisine. Trader Vic’s features dishes from the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Asia and Japan and uses Chinese wood-fired ovens. Waikikie Hawaiian BBQ pays tribute to one of the Hawaiian Islands. Food Terminal features a high variety of Asian street foods with a heavy emphasis on Malaysian cuisine. Orient Express has three different rooms with a distinctive atmosphere and cuisine for Chinese, sushi or hibachi. Little Bangkok has Thai and Chinese menus. Find more of our favorite Chinese restaurants here.
If your kids are older, visit a grocery store together to find new snacks and foods. Wagaya Groceries focuses mainly on Japanese and some Eastern Asian products. Asian supermarket chain H Mart has stores in Doraville, Duluth, Johns Creek and Suwanee. Located in Norcross, Hong Kong Market carries most Asian products, including rice, dry food and spices. Biswas Grocery and Café on Buford Highway offers Indian cuisine and groceries. Search to see if there is an international market in your area.
Once you find your ingredients, cook up something new together. Find a cookbook featuring a cuisine that’s different than your usual fare. From a New York restaurant, “Xi’an Famous Foods: The Cuisine of Western China, from New York’s Favorite Noodle Shop” has recipes for Tiger Vegetables Salad, Liang Pi “Cold Skin Noodles” and more. Have a delicious adventure with “Chinese Dim Sum Cookbook for Kids” featuring the cooking styles of Cantonese cuisine, tea and dim sum pairings and more. “Cooking Class Global Feast” has 44 recipes celebrating different countries, including Russia, Korea, Nepal, Japan and more.