Gong xi fa cai! It’s Chinese New Year on 16th February, and here’s all you need to know about celebrating the Year of the Dog in the capital
As legend goes, the tradition of Chinese New Year began centuries ago with a dragon called Nian.
Fearing yet more deaths at the dragon’s jaws, an old villager decided to stand up to the beast once and for all and frightened it away using firecrackers and red paper.
A time of family, prosperity and happiness, 16th February marks the Year of the Dog. Here’s where you can get in the spirit in the capital.
Kicking off on 15th February with three days of activities and performances, The Galleria’s celebration includes Chinese opera, fan dances and drumming, as well as crafts including calligraphy and lantern making. Don’t miss the annual firework display on 16th February on the waterfront promenade from 9pm. Until 17th February. Al Maryah Island. 3pm 10pm. Visit: thegalleria.ae
Head to Le Royal Méridien’s revolving restaurant and lounge on 16th February for a great view of the fireworks, as well as a Yum Cha style supper club and beverages inspired by flavours from China. AED 325. Fatima Bint Mubarak Street. 8pm–11pm. Contact: 02 674 2020, leroyalmeridienabudhabi.com
Dai Pai Dong
This up-market Chinese restaurant will be ringing in the Year of the Dog with a special set menu from 15th to 28th February. Enjoy shrimp har gow dumplings, Cantonese roast duck and braised lobster e-fu noodles, as well as a koi-shaped cake for dessert. AED 248. Al Maryah Island. 6pm–11pm. Contact: 02 813 5552, firstname.lastname@example.org
On 16th February, enjoy a pan-Asian feast at Li Jiang, with a traditional Yu Sheng salad, dim sum, wok fried beef tenderloin with truffle essence and a mixed deep-fried fruit roll all on the menu. AED 250 for two. Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal, Khor Al Maqtaa. 7pm–11pm. Contact: 02 818 8282, email@example.com
From 8th to 17th February, enjoy a sharing-style five-course dinner at Shang Palace, with dishes including New Year dumplings and rice cakes, plus clay pot chicken and Spring Festival soup. From AED 590+++ for two. Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri, between the bridges. 7pm–11.30pm. Contact: 02 509 8555, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dine on a menu inspired by longevity and luck until 4th March at Hakkasan, with dishes including grilled seabass with kumquat glaze, braised beef with caramelised walnuts and a dessert featuring ginger caramel, macadamia nuts and lemongrass. AED 598. Emirates Palace. Daily 6pm–midnight. Contact: 02 690 7739, email@example.com
Enjoy a four-course set menu of classic dishes, including jellyfish salad with sweet corn and crab soup, steamed sea bass and for dessert, a selection of traditional sweet treats topped with longan syrup. 16th Feb. AED 140. Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi, Hamdan Street. Noon–11pm. Contact: 02 616 6149, facebook.com/chogaoasianexperience
New Year, Old traditions
Abu Dhabi-based Chinese fine artist Jack Lee tells us all about his holiday customs and his plans for this year.
Why is Chinese New Year so important in your country’s culture?
It’s the biggest festival of the whole year. We all gather to talk and eat under one roof, and if you’re married, it’s tradition to give money to children as well as your parents – we call these the red envelopes.
A huge family meal is an important part of the celebrations. Do you have a favourite dish?
China is huge, so different parts have their own traditional foods. In my city, Xiamen, in the Fujian province, we have a famous noodle dish that we eat at every celebration – it contains some broth, lots of seafood and noodles.
What are some of your favourite Chinese New Year traditions?
As a child, I loved Chinese New Year because I was always given lots of money and we’d play games and enjoy fireworks. As an adult, when I’m able to go home, I love seeing my childhood friends – we’re grown-ups now and it’s fun to see everyone grow older.
How will you be celebrating this year?
All my family will be in Abu Dhabi, so we’ll get together for a big celebration with some friends who are staying here. We’ll cook traditional dishes together and then we’ll go and see the fireworks.
WORDS Camille Hogg