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Chinese New Year 2015: How to use chopsticks like a pro

This Chinese New Year, add one heaping bowl of noodles, subtract your flatware and add a set of chopsticks — then eat like you mean it. 

Chopsticks have been used in China since at least 1200 B.C., according to History Channel, but the earliest uses were for cooking, not for eating.

It wasn’t until Confucian times that sharp objects were swapped out at the table for chopsticks to be used for eating. It was Confucius who thought mealtime should be happy and peaceful, thus the basis of chopsticks’ appeal. 

If you don’t know how to use chopsticks and try to eat with them, mealtime can be quite the opposite of happy or peaceful, but it doesn’t have to be.

1. Place one chopstick in the web of your dominant hand. Slightly curl your middle, ring and pinky fingers and let the lower end of the chopstick rest on your finger. Be sure not to grip to high or too low — you’ll need to be able to pinch the chopsticks together to grab larger or smaller bites. Also, don’t curl or grip your fingers too tightly. 

2. Take the second chopstick and grip between your thumb and pointer finger, letting it rest on your bent pointer finger. 

3. Grab the food by pinching your thumb and pointer fingers to grab the food as needed. It’s okay if you spill or drop a little, just adjust and try again. Try not to let them criss-cross, as that makes it really hard to grip anything.  

When eating with chopsticks, however, there are a few etiquette guidelines to follow, courtesy of Etiquette Scholar

  • Noise: Chopsticks are not drumsticks and are not to be used as noisemakers or to bang on the table. 
  • Pointing: During the meal, it is considered rude to point chopsticks toward others at the table, or use them to point with while eating. 
  • Resting: During a break in the meal or when you’re done with your food, don’t stick the chopsticks vertically in a bowl of rice and don’t cross-cross them on the table — both symbolize death. 

Above all, remember to have fun and keep trying until you find what works for you. Happy Chinese New Year!

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