Kung Hei Fat Choi! On Friday 16 February, over a billion Chinese people will begin celebrating Chinese New Year, with festivities continuing until the annual Lantern Festival which falls in the middle of the month.
Chinese New Year or the Spring Festival falls on the start of the lunar calendar and we’re celebrating the year of the dog!
Growing up as a child, New Year festivities were always a big deal in our household. From my parents getting the house in order, and making my sister and I have a bath with orange peel – it’s very cleansing, removes negativity and is good Feng Shui; to getting lots of Lai See (red packets) filled with cash from our very generous family members – as a way of sharing their blessings. I still get them from my grandparents, while Monkey has already accumulated several over the past week. He’s one lucky boy.
When I was a youngster, I loved going to watch the lion and dragon dances in Chinatown – the dragon an important symbol in China, the mark of power, strength and good luck. Which is the reason why we chose Monkey’s middle name, Sil Loon – little dragon. I remember the deafening sound of the fire crackers, to ward off evil spirits; the loud chitter-chatter of my family and, what seemed to me every other Chinese family in the whole of London, as we sat down to eat a banquet fit for a king.
Ahh yes. The food. My favourite part. My mum, dad and grandparents always cook an almighty feast – from crispy pork, suckling pig and duck, dumplings and steamed fresh fish and lobster. It’s such a treat and one the whole family looks forward to.
As much as I would love to invite you all around to my parents, there are plenty of events around the Capital for you and the family to join in the celebrations and learn about Chinese traditions. If you can’t make any, then head out and enjoy a sumptuous Chinese meal. Whatever you get up to, I’d like to wish you all a very Happy Chinese New Year.
Chinatown and The Chinese New Year Parade
Billed as the biggest Chinese New Year knees-up outside of Asia, London’s celebrations get going on Sunday 29 January. The party centres on Chinatown and the surrounding streets, with a parade along Shaftesbury Avenue culminating in lion and dragon dances in Trafalgar Square.
The parade begins north of Trafalgar Square at 10.00am, with a dragon and lion dance on the stage in the square after which there will be lion dances throughout Chinatown until early evening. There are special menus and events in Chinatown’s 100+ restaurants, bars, cafes and shops, as well as all sorts of food and craft stalls on the streets. There will also be entertainment via gravity-defying high pole dances, comedy and acrobatics from Szechuan Opera and a monkey-themed finale involving fireworks and a light projection on Nelson’s Column
Sunday 18 February. Nearest Tube to Chinatown is Leicester Square. More info at lccauk.com
Chinese New Year at The National Maritime Museum
Celebrate Chinese New Year and British East Asian heritage at the National Maritime Museum and Cutty Sark with a day of free workshops and performances including a lion dance and puppet making. Discover more about how trade by sea brought people and cultural celebrations from Asia to Britain.
Saturday 17 February from 11.00am-4.00pm at The National Maritime Museum, Romney Rd, Greenwich, London SE10 9NF. More info at rmg.co.uk
Magical Lantern Festival
MTM highly recommends The Magical Lantern Festival, which returns to Chiswick House & Gardens, transforming the grounds into an extravaganza of lights, culture, art and cuisine. There are over 50 giant hand-sculpted lanterns will be on display, including a 60 metre-long dragon stretched out across the lake, as well as children’s activities and the chance to design and construct your own lanterns. The theme for this year’s festival is ‘Explore The Silk Road’.
Magic Lantern Festival at Chiswick House & Gardens, Burlington Lane, Chiswick, Greater London W4 2RP; Tickets: Adults £18.00; Kids £12.00.