Chinese New Year gives an excuse not to wash

Taking a shower means your luck might disappear down the plughole

Tomorrow is Chinese New Year so we at London Inspire would like to say kung hei fat choi (only phrase I learned during a year working on a newspaper in Hong Kong) to all the thousands of Chinese living in London.

Often their new year starts in February, but this time the lunar new year is earlier on the 25th of January. In case you have managed to escape all mention of it, it’s the year of the rat!

The Chinese trust a lot to luck and are a fairly superstitious group of people so here, with the help of School of Wok founder and celebrity chef Jeremy Pang we are going to take a look at some of the dos and don’ts of Chinese etiquette.

I really love the first thing he’s drawn to everyone’s attention – don’t take a shower! Pang says: “First one that sticks in my mind from my mum, as a child, was ‘DON’T SHOWER’…. well, at least not on Chinese New Year’s Day.” So, there you have it … if you don’t want you luck to disappear, don’t wash. What more excuse do you need?

In addition Pang says, don’t clean your house (which is why the Chinese clean the day before, or deep clean just before CNY), as, again, it will sweep away our luck. This is starting to sound like a slob’s charter.

Pang adds: “Chinese New Year is all about accruing good luck for the year ahead and this is why firecrackers and fireworks are set off at midnight, to ward off misfortune and bring in that good luck.

“Also, don’t give red packets unless you’re married! These red envelopes are packets of luck, usually filled with money… so if you’re single – you’re in a good place and should look forward to receiving lots of money on Chinese New Year and gaining wealth! As soon as you’re married, you have to then give red packets to all those younger than you who are single.”

Pang always recommends having a fully stocked pantry for the celebrations which must include:

An abundance of rice – for an abundance in life.

Plenty of oil – to keep you going. 

Sweet things – to keep your life sweet.

Mandarins and oranges – pronounced ”gum” in Cantonese, which sounds like Gold are for Good Wealth.

Endless noodles to represent long life.

The running theme of performing certain rituals for luck follows through onto the banquet table for Chinese New Year. Everything is about wealth, prosperity, good health, or abundance in life and for Pang, the below three dishes are an absolute must for the festive table and represent that running theme…

Wonton Braised Noodles with Tobiko – aka the jelly fish dumplings 
The long noodle feature of this dish represents long life and the wontons are in there for good wealth, they also look like money bags, or ‘gold ingots’ – olden day Chinese money.

Crispy tofu rolls with prawns (shrimp) and asparagus 
These ‘rolls’ signify gold bars for the table and are a wish for good wealth by the host to all those sat at the table.

Sea bass with crushed soybeans and chilli sauce
The classic whole steamed Chinese fish dish. Cooking a whole fish represents an abundance for life. 

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David Buckley

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past publications worked for include the South-East London Mercury*, Kent Messenger, Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor for an East Midlands-based publishing group.

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