18th February 2015: Happy Lunar New Year and Gong Hei Fat Choi to all!

Tomorrow marks the first day of the new lunar year and, for many Chinese, the beginning of some fantastic celebrations to bring in the new year of the Sheep.  I've been asked by patients in the past to provide more information on Chinese new year and which I hope will be interesting to readers!

Traditionally the lunar new year is brought in with family and friends of course and amidst a lot of fantastic food.  Some foods have particular significance during the lunar new year - for example, tangerines symbolise luck whilst noodles reflect longevity so in this case, the longer the noodles are, the better!  

Another food which families will often make themselves and which can be offered as gifts to loved ones is the mighty 'leen go' (in Cantonese) or 'nian gao' (in Mandarin).  This translates to new year cake and because the word for cake 'go/gao' sounds the same as the word for high, it symbolises achieving greater things in the new year.  This is a steamed cake whose basic ingredients are glutinous rice flour and brown sugar but you'll find different versions of these which might include herbs, nuts and sesame seeds.  My own family recipe includes red dates (hung jo/hong zao) which brings in a delicious sweetness and bursts of molten texture to it, but which is also a popular Chinese medicine used for sleeplessness or for regulating periods and fertility.

There are lots of celebrations and activities going on across London and Hertfordshire and plenty of opportunities to join in on the fun!  There will be huge gatherings in London this weekend, including a parade on Sunday 22nd February through the London Chinatown areas.  Expect an electric atmosphere and lots of hubbub as everybody gathers to watch the infamous and traditional lion and dragon dancers to symbolise a fresh new start to the year and good luck and fortune.  

If you're after something more local, Harrow Chinese School will be hosting a New Year Celebration event on Saturday 21st February.  The Watford Chinese association and Watford Chinese Centre for the Older People have also teamed up with an array of volunteers from the local community to bring you the Chinese New Year Culture Show.  This will be hosted on Sunday 1st March at the Palace Theatre in Watford.  For more details, please click here.  

May this lunar new year of the Sheep be a happy and healthy one to all!

Lily Lai