Don’t be a monkey on Chinese New Year

Monday 8th February is Chinese New Year and 2016 is the Year of the Monkey. The UK has some of the largest celebrations outside of Asia; with Chinatown in London attracting about 300,000 people and large events being held in Birmingham,  Manchester and Liverpool, to name a few.

However, the Year of the Monkey is considered to be one on the most unlucky years in the Chinese calendar. So, here’s some advice to make sure your celebrations go safely.

Celebrating with Fireworks

It is thought that fireworks were invented in 12th century China. Fireworks are a traditional part of the New Year celebrations as they are thought to scare away evil spirits and Nian – the New Year monster.

CFOA suggest that if you like firework displays as part of your celebration it is best to attend a large professionally organised event. These are not only safer but are generally more spectacular than anything you can achieve in your back garden.

If you are still thinking of setting off you own fireworks take some time to familiarise yourself with important advice.

Follow the Firework Code

  • Only buy fireworks marked BS 7114
  • Don’t drink alcohol if setting off fireworks
  • Keep fireworks in a closed box
  • Follow the instructions on each firework
  • Light them at arm’s length, using a taper
  • Stand well back
  • Never go near a firework that has been lit
  • Even if it hasn’t gone off, it could still explode
  • Never put fireworks in your pocket or throw them
  • Always supervise children around fireworks
  • Light sparklers one at a time and wear gloves
  • Never give sparklers to a child under five
  • Keep pets indoors
  • Don’t let off fireworks after 1am on Chinese New Year, usually this is 11pm

Out of courtesy, it is worth mentioning to your neighbours you will be setting off fireworks. They may not realise it is Chinese New Year and it gives them a chance to make sure pets are indoors and safe.

A licensed firework retailer can sell fireworks all year round. Other licensed sellers will have a short-term licence and can sell three days before the Chinese New Year. Don’t buy fireworks from the back of a van or at the pub; they are not legal and may not be safe.

Firecrackers are traditionally used in China for New Year celebrations but they are not legal in the UK.

Chinese Lanterns

There are plenty of recorded incidents involving these lanterns and for that reason CFOA does not agree with their use and discourages their use at all times. In some areas of the UK, councils have banned the sale and use of lanterns, so it is worth double checking with your local council.

CFOA Position Statement

The Chief Fire Officers Association is calling for an urgent review on the use of the floating paper lanterns as they operate in an unregulated and uncontrolled way.

There is now video evidence of a lantern causing a major fire in the West Midlands  in 2013, which required more than 200 firefighters, 39 fire appliances and 3 hydraulic platforms.

CFOA do not support the use of these devices and asks members of the public and event organisers to refrain from using them. While these lanterns are undoubtedly a popular and beautiful sight, the potential damage they can cause is significant.

Lanterns have caused fires, damaged livestock and have been mistaken for distress flares, which has used valuable police and coastguard resources.


About 60% of house fires start in the kitchen. If you’re trying out some Chinese treats for New Year have a look at our advice for cooking.

Cooking Safety Tips

  • Make sure hobs and grills pans are clean, the build up of fat can cause a fire
  • Don’t get distracted when cooking and never leave cooking unattended
  • Take care not to lean over hot hobs and keep tea towels and cloths away from the cooker and hob
  • Don’t cook if you have been drinking alcohol
  • Take care when cooking with hot oil – it can easily overheat and catch fire
  • Never fill a pan more than one-third full of fat or oil
  • Make sure food is dry before putting it in hot oil
  • If the oil starts to smoke, it’s too hot. Turn off the heat and leave it to cool

As it’s Chinese New Year maybe the safest option is to order a Chinese meal from your local takeaway.



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