January 27, 2017, by Janice

My Overseas Chinese New Year Experience

Exams are finally over! For me, the only thing that kept me motivated during those trying weeks was Chinese New Year (CNY) — the most important day in the Chinese calendar, which is tomorrow.

This will be my third CNY away from home. Of course, nothing beats the warm feeling of home, the traditions I will miss, and the many faces I call family. But, don’t get me wrong, that does not mean the past two celebrations I had here had been anything short of spectacular.

Here are some ways that I tried to uphold tradition whilst studying in the UK:

  1. Yee Sang

Though not a traditional CNY dish in China, this is a must-have CNY dish in South East Asia. It literally is a salad, a la Chinese style, with shredded vegetables and raw fish strips such as salmon, topped with various types of sauces and condiments – sometimes up to 20 ingredients. Each ingredient has its own meaning, for example, the fish symbolises prosperity, carrots for good luck and pomelo for wealth.

While in the UK, we try to replicate the dish as close as possible to the original. But the lack of ingredients and funds proved to be a challenge. Hence, our twist on the traditional Yee Sang consists mostly of shredded carrots, onions, cucumber, and salmon slices,

Our version of the Yee Sang



A few traditional meals are observed every CNY. It starts with the night before CNY where we have the reunion dinner where mostly meat and seafood are served. On the first day of CNY itself, lunch will be a meat-free affair. With flour-based ‘fake meat’ as substitutes. For example, the barbecued pork on the top right corner of the picture is actually fake meat. This will then be followed by a meat-packed lunch the next day.

While most of us do not adhere strictly to the traditional meal plan while here, we’ll always try to at least observe the reunion dinner, in the form of a home-cooked meal, potluck or a nice dinner out in the city.


3. The Sights and Sounds of Celebration

While I miss the lights and fireworks back home, the UK has its own substitute for this. After the reunion dinner, we would head out into the backyard to play with some sparklers. The above is a picture taken last year, after many attempts of trying to create letters out of sparklers. In addition, the university has its very own annual CNY firework display down by the lake.


Celebrating CNY in a foreign land may be quite of a change for some, but remember it is up to you to make it as special as you wish it to be!

Happy Chinese New Year!



Posted in Janice