Guide to celebrating Chinese New Year in London

You can take part in a huge variety of fun workshops and classes during the Chinese New Year in London.

© Shutterstock

You can take part in a huge variety of fun workshops and classes during the Chinese New Year in London.

© Shutterstock Guide to celebrating Chinese New Year in London Chinese New Year falls on January 23 this year and London has a whole host of activities planned to celebrate the Year of the Rabbit.

After Chinese New Years’ Eve, when families come together over dinner and gifts, the celebrations kick off the following day with a huge parade. London’s Chinatown is one of the city’s best neighbourhoods throughout the year, but when Chinese New Year approaches, it’s particularly special. Each year thousands of people flock to Chinatown to watch the New Year Parade, which will take place this year on Sunday, January 22. The festival is organised by the Chinatown Chinese Association and stretches through Chinatown, often passing through Leicester Square and into Trafalgar Square. The parade features huge colourful floats, giant lions and dragons, dancers and performances, and is completely free to enjoy for the public. It normally begins at around 11 am and continues on until the late afternoon.

In Trafalgar Square, firecrackers are normally set off by the hundreds of spectators before they complete the Lion’s Eye Dotting ceremony, which is said to bring prosperity, health and good luck to those in attendance. After this, there will be a whole day of unique shows, such as martial arts performances, Chinese dancing and traditional music. One of the best ways to experience the celebrations is to take a stroll around the West End, where you’ll find no end of colourful street performers, food stalls and live music. At the end of the day, there will be a spectacular lion-dancing performance and firework display.

Dragon dancing and more fun

To get fully immersed in the celebrations, you can take part in a huge variety of fun workshops and classes during the Chinese New Year. Some of the best include dragon dancing, calligraphy, lantern making, and cooking classes where you can make dumplings. At Tzu Chi Academy, there will be workshops open to the public, as well as dance performances and Kung Fu demonstrations by members of the Shaolin Temple, plus plenty of food stalls selling traditional Chinese dishes. Over in Leicester Square, there will be a more child-friendly family zone, offering fun music, arts & crafts and dressing up in traditional Chinese outfits.

As the day goes on, if you’re not already full from one of the food stalls, head back to Chinatown and visit one of the many excellent restaurants in the area. Some of the best on the main street include Old Town 97, which stays open until 4am, Four Seasons on Wardour Street and Café TPT, which are both traditional Cantonese eateries. You’ll likely need to book in advance in all restaurants, and it will be busy. The most popular dishes to eat at Chinese New Year are dumplings and dim sum, as well as noodles, which can be found aplenty in Chinatown. Don’t miss out on visiting the local bakeries, where they’ll sell celebratory cakes, pastries and traditional sweets to celebrate the holiday. If you can’t get into a Chinatown eatery, almost all other Chinese restaurants across London will be hosting special lunches for the occasion, and there will also be foodie experiences, supper clubs and cooking classes.

You can taste traditional Chinese dishes at Chinese New Year celebrations in London.

© Shutterstock

Yuan Xiao Festival

Although the major festivities in London take place on Sunday, January 22., in China, the celebrations continue for a full 16 days, concluding with the Yuan Xiao Festival, where people release hundreds of glowing paper lanterns into the sky. The most common greeting when celebrating Chinese New Year is ‘kung hei fat choi’, which means ‘greetings and good fortune’. The Lunar calendar has twelve different animals, each representing a sign of the Zodiac, with this year’s animal being the Rabbit, which signifies cleverness and generosity.