Chinese New Year is fast approaching, with billions of Chinese people getting ready to celebrate the Spring Festival on 28 January. As well as in mainland China, Chinese New Year is celebrated all around the world. In the UK, colourful celebrations will take place in all major cities towards the end of this month, with some of the most jubilant celebrations being held in London.
There are plenty of ways to celebrate Chinese New Year. If you fancy going out, check your local area for organised activities. Lion dances, street food, Chinese lanterns, funfair rides and all sorts of additional activities take place as part of the festivities, with tens of thousands of people attending in many cities (celebrations in Birmingham drew in around 30,000 people last year).
Chinese New Year is also about spending time with family, but if university commitments mean you can’t be with you kin, why not celebrate with friends instead? If you live in a property that has its’ very own private dinner party room, then this is the perfect place to host a spectacular Chinese New Year feast.
There are a few simple guidelines to follow when planning a Chinese New Year culinary extravaganza. The reunion dinner (Nian Ye Fan) on New Year’s Eve is a particularly sumptuous celebration, which should include eight individual dishes for good fortune. A communal hot pot, where meats, vegetables, tofu and seafood are cooked in a pot of simmering stock at the centre of the dining table, is a wonderful way to share the experience with friends and all contribute something to the meal.
Pork, chicken and fish dishes are also commonly eaten. Leave some of the fish uneaten and store it overnight to comply with the traditional way of encouraging surpluses over the coming year. If you’re feeling adventurous you could also try your hand at making your own noodles – make them as long as you can to represent long life.
There are plenty of recipes online for traditional Chinese New Year fare, which includes everything from mandarin oranges and melon seeds to a wonderfully sticky range of sweets and cakes. Planning ahead with friends and each creating a particular dish is a great way to hold a Chinese New Year feast without too much stress.
Additional customs include the giving of red envelopes with money in (why not give your friends envelopes with eight chocolate coins in each?) and the exchange of gifts such as food or sweets.
Fireworks and firecrackers are also commonly set off as part of Chinese New Year celebrations. Restrictions are in place regarding the use of fireworks, so err on the side of caution and attend a local display. There will be plenty of these around the country on the weekend of 28 and 29 January.
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