Chinese New Year may not be the most English occasion in the London diary, but it’s certainly one of the most eventful. London’s Chinese New Year is a product of years of trade and collaboration between the two countries and has led to the formation of the city’s very own China Town. If you’re visiting London in late January and early February, then you’ll be right on time for this exciting and festive occasion, bringing vibrancy, noise and excitement to the city. If you’re visiting with family or staying at the Grand Central Hotel London on a solo business trip, there’s still an eclectic rostrum of cultural events in the city to help you get in the festive mood. Below is an extensive guide focussing on what you can expect from the London New Years festivities.
What is Chinese New Years
This year, Chinese New Year falls on the 5th of February, with festivities in London taking place on the 10th of February. Following a range of zodiac signs, this year will mark the coming of the year of the pig and dates are set in accordance with the new moon which arrives anywhere between the 20th of January and 20th of February. This means that each year, the date will change. Chinese Year celebrates the renewal of the traditional Chinese calendar, and brings a range of parades, workshops and performances to countries across the world. Whether it be magnificent Chinese firework displays or traditional Chinese meals, the range of events undertaken are eclectic and exciting enough to delight all ages and tastes.
What is London’s Chinatown?
Chinatown in London is an enclave of Soho in which visitors can find traditional Chinese restaurants, shops and bakeries, bringing a dash of cultural character to the mostly bar and theatre orientated area. With an original enclave based in the Limehouse area established in the early 20th century to provide for Chinese dock workers, the new Chinatown off Shaftesbury Avenue was not established until the 1970’s. This area is now an iconic part of London, bringing traditional architecture, music and food to the already exciting area.
London Chinatown Chinese Association
The London Chinatown Chinese Association is the organisation which was set up to promote Chinese businesses and organisations in London. It has existed for almost as long as London’s Chinatown has, and is one of the main organisers for Chinese New Year. With a range of workshops, educational activities and events organised by the LCCA throughout the year, they are important players on the cultural London landscape.
Trafalgar Square performances
Trafalgar Square acts as one of the main performance venues over Chinese New Year’s. Here you will find a range of screen shows and a thanksgiving ceremony, followed by speeches by famous and prestigious Chinese locals. The Lions eye-dotting ceremony follows, in which nine joss-stick candles are lighted on stage. After this, powdered cinnabar is soaked in water and used to dot the symbolic Lion float. Alongside music, the whole of the Lions body is dotted with the traditional paint, eventually leading to the lion itself “coming to life” and dancing through the crowd, signifying rebirth
New Year parade
With over 50 teams taking part, the New Years parade consists of traditional Chinese puppets of Dragons and Lions as well as dancers and musicians, all kicking up a storm through the centre of the city. Taking place on the 10th of February throughout the day, you can expect pounding drums, extravagant and vibrant floats and beautiful traditional New Years creatures, all brought to life through art and dance.
West End stages
As the parade pounds on, the West End stages promise a range of activities, performances and workshops suitable for all ages. With Leicester Square’s Chinese Spectrum Radio showcasing singers and interviewing locals, there’s plenty of entertainment on show. On top of this, you can find martial arts performances, including tai chi chuan and taekwondo all up Shaftesbury Avenue. With educational workshops throughout the children’s zone, you can be sure that the kids will be kept entertained too!
Chinatowns abundance of restaurants and events during the festivities will undoubtedly draw the eye and spark excitement. If you want to watch the parade in full flow, then Chinatown is the perfect setting, whilst there will be countless photo opportunities on the street due to the range of arts and crafts on show from locals. Whether it’s a beautiful shot of Chinese Lanterns or a selfie with dancing dragons and lions, Chinatown is without question the eye of the Chinese New Year storm.
Best Chinese Restaurants in Chinatown
Wok Master in Chinatown is well known for its Asian fusion dishes, alongside the classic Chinese and Taiwanese restaurant Din Tai Fung. These two restaurants promise vibrant and relaxed dining experiences which are great for families. The more upmarket Peach Blossoms offers the right balance of taste and value, and brings a great brunch, lunch and dinner menu. Whether you’re after a classic Chinese curry or a simple won ton soup, there’s plenty on offer throughout Chinatown.
Tips to fully enjoy Chinese New Year
With the wide range of events and countless visitors coming to enjoy the spectacle, Chinese New Year can be incredibly busy. With only one day to enjoy everything, you’ll no doubt have to organise yourself very well to pack everything in. Below are just some of our tips to enjoy the festival and celebrations to the maximum. After all, you’ll most likely be outside for the whole day, and will want to keep your wits about you.
Red is a colour which symbolises luck during the New Years celebrations. If you want to bring in the Year of the Pig being the best you can be, wear something red, ushering luck and favour throughout the next year. Why not learn some simple Chinese phrases as well, such as Happy New Year to surprise the Chinese revellers!
Remember that the streets get crowded
London gets incredibly crowded during Chinese New Year, so ensuring that you keep your belongings safe from pickpockets is crucial. If you are travelling with family, make sure you don’t lose anybody and avoid the central tube stations if you can. Keep in mind that bus routes and taxis may find the West End congested during these celebrations, so walk when and if you can.
Make sure that if you want to eat at a Chinese Restaurant on Chinese New Year, that you book way in advance. Many restaurants will undoubtedly get booked up very fast indeed.