• Behind the Cuisine

Food and family are the heart of Chinese New Year traditions

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Written by Scoffable
Jan 20, 2023
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We've been talking to one of our Scoffable Partners to find out more about the traditions and symbolism behind this annual celebration.


Chinese New Year takes place this month, and we've caught up with Scoffable Partner Tai Chen, Head Chef and Business Partner at Mrs Chan's Chinese Food Bar, to hear about what Chinese New Year means, and how he plans to celebrate.

"Chinese New Year is a 15-day long festival that dates back thousands of years. There are lots of different types of celebrations within the New Year, with many traditions.

Traditionally in China, the celebrations start on New Year's Eve with a reunion dinner. This is a family gathering, everyone takes the day off and we exchange blessings. It brings together the whole family in a harmonious, happy atmosphere. It's my favourite part of the whole event.

Then on New Year's Day we wear new clothes to celebrate, greet each other with lucky words and give red envelopes with gifts to children and older people. After that we spend the days visiting friends and relatives, until the 15th day when we have a closing celebration called the Lantern Festival.

Chinese dragon
Colourful Chinese New Year celebrations
Chinese New Year is a 15-day long festival that dates back thousands of years. There are lots of different types of celebrations within the New Year, with many traditions.

The Lantern Festival takes place at night, and people from across the community come into the streets with lanterns they have made at home. There might be lion dancing, or dragon dancing, and it's noisy and bustling with people. Traditionally, we end the whole festival by eating sweet rice balls - these symbolise a blessed and unified family.

These kinds of celebrations are standard across China, although there is a difference in the food between the north and south of the country. In the north, dumplings are a common festive food, whereas in the south, poultry and seafood are the preference. New Year cakes (usually made from sticky rice) are a favourite across China but they come in different shapes, textures and flavours depending on who makes them and where you are."

Tai celebrates both Chinese New Year and Hogmanay. But Chinese New Year is the bigger of the two festivities for him and his family. We asked him about what a typical Chinese New Year celebration is like in Scotland:

"In the UK, we usually celebrate in big extended family groups, and sometimes with friends. Food is at the heart of our gatherings, and we cook lots of our favourite dishes and have a jolly time together. 

Different events happen in different areas here, depending on the size of the Chinese community, and whether the local council get involved. Many local Chinese communities such as Chinese schools or churches and temples organise dance performances and lion or dragon dances. Some councils also promote Chinese culture with food, dance or music events as well."

Given the importance of food in the celebrations, Tai is positive about the impact Chinese New Year will have on his business:

"More and more people in our area, and in Scotland as a whole, are aware of the Chinese New Year and want to celebrate the occasion with us, so business is on the upwards trend.  Some businesses may choose to close for the full holiday, but we are open as usual. We are looking forward to our own celebrations and welcoming customers to join us for some amazing Chinese food."

To sample some of Tai's cooking for yourself, order from Mrs Chan's Chinese Food Bar with Scoffable.

If you're a takeaway or restaurant business, you can find out more about becoming a Scoffable Partner on our website.

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