Everything you need to know about Chinese New Year

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Monday 8th February, 2016 marks an important date in the Chinese lunar calendar. It will be, of course, Chinese New Year! Here in the UK, we can celebrate by visiting Chinatowns in big cities such as London, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool. These cities, with their food stalls, glowing lanterns and intricate patterns can display only a small part of the entirety of what Chinese New Year is really about, so continue reading for more detailed descriptions and how you can also celebrate in a more traditional way.

In China, when the New Year is approaching, family members will contribute to some thorough house cleaning in order for decorations to be put up such as Kumquat trees, Peonies, Chinese lanterns & paintings. Typically, there would be a 2 week public holiday and a family meal is one of the most important parts of the New Year. Chinese families tend to be quite large, so everyone gathers together either at a very traditional Chinese restaurant, or a family home, if it’s big enough.

There is no specific food eaten on the day but some options on a menu would be Peking duck, Dumplings, Fried Noodles, Whole Steamed Fish and Pork meat cooked in every way imaginable! At dinner, red envelopes enclosed with money are given out to those generally under the age of 18, with around 10-15 envelopes being given out in one night! The envelope-giving turns into a cycle amongst generations, grown-ups giving them to their children, to be handed down later on to their own children in the future.

Later in the evening, the families will go to a household which has the most exciting fireworks, often a selection of 50, to watch them being set off. Many of these fireworks are even bigger and more extravagant than those on Bonfire night in the UK. A type of chain reaction firework is well-known in China and commonly used, it is said to be extremely loud, louder than gun-shots!

So, whether you’re celebrating at home, Chinatown in the UK, or China itself, I’d like to wish you Xīn nián kuài lè!

Zeba Jahingir lives in Liberty Court, London. She is studying Actuarial Science at City University London and is in her 1st year at University.

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