It’s a good time to be in London as two very different but equally delicious feasts are celebrated this week: Pancake Tuesday (on Tuesday) followed by Chinese New Year (on Thursday). Different as they are, the celebrations do share common attributes: both offer the chance of a new start and both bring the opportunity for some seriously delicious food.
Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday falls the day before the start of the Christian period of Lent. It shares its roots with the Mardi Gras carnivals celebrated by other cultures across the globe. Why pancakes you may ask? To use up eggs and dairy products, which were traditionally not allowed to be consumed during the seven penitent weeks of Lent. Nowadays if Lent is observed at all, it’s more likely to be by giving up indulgences like chocolate or sweets or by taking up a good habit. But even those who aren’t observant Christians are always happy for a chance to eat a pancake. British pancakes are somewhere between a North American pancake and a French crepe, and the traditional way to eat them is with sugar and lemon juice, though other sweet and savoury fillings are popular too.
Many restaurants will be serving pancakes on Tuesday but for year-round pancake expertise, try My Old Dutch pancake house on High Holborn, a short walk from Strand Palace Hotel.
Shrove Tuesday also sees pancake races take place in the capital. The most high-profile race is by the Palace of Westminster (less than 20 minutes’ walk from Strand Palace Hotel) and as a fundraiser for charity, it has members of parliament and the House of Lords as well as journalists racing each other while flipping pancakes in the frying pans they carry round the course.
Chinese New Year
After the calories and chaos of Pancake Day, you’ll have a little time to recover before the Chinese New Year rolls in and the festivities start up.
This year, we are welcoming the year of the sheep and the London celebrations will be the largest outside Asia. Dress in red for good luck and watch as the fireworks drive away negative energy and welcome the opportunities of the new year. Head to Chinatown to enjoy the great atmosphere and the food served in any one of the area’s hundreds of restaurants. Traditional New Year food for the Cantonese is a whole chicken (symbolising happiness for the whole family) and fish (bringing the wish for surplus every year), while the northern Chinese will traditionally eat dumplings on this day. All of these can be found served in the restaurants round Gerrard Street, in the heart of Chinatown.
The biggest celebrations of Chinese New Year in London will be a few days after the New Year itself, to coincide with the weekend, when there will be a parade and dragon dancers threading their way through Chinatown. From Strand Palace Hotel, you can walk to Chinatown in less than 15 minutes.
Looking for hotels near Chinatown, London? Strand Palace Hotel is within easy walking distance of Chinatown and the best Chinese restaurants in London, making it the perfect place to ring in the Chinese New Year.
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