Chinese New Year is a colourful time of celebrations, music, dragons, lanterns and luck money. The celebrations in London are a haven for culture and tradition and the joint second largest celebration outside of Asia.
2017 is the year of the Rooster, children who will be born in the new year, as well as those born in 1957, are fire roosters – said to be responsible and trustworthy with a good sense of timekeeping.
In London on the 29th Jan, a parade kicked off at 10 am from Trafalgar Square and circulated central London. This year Trafalgar Square boasted a stage, performances, food and stalls.
For students (especially those with travel cards) this is an excellent opportunity to experience Chinese culture and bag a day out in central for minimal buck. As an advocate for stepping out of your comfort bubble and exploring London, Chinese New Year is a great starting point, though from my experience, requires a bit of planning first.
1. Dress Appropriately
Sadly, this is London in January and caught up in the excitement I had nonchalantly neglected waterproof gear. Even in the high spirits of Chinese new year, it is always a bummer traipsing around with mascara running down your face and clothes squelching as you walk.
Do participate in the traditions, however! It is said that wearing particular colours such as red can bring you luck; red is also said to scare off the mythical monster Nian.
2. Get there early
Thousands swamp China Town and Trafalgar square. I arrived around 12 pm and had to queue for the Trafalgar festivities for 30minutes only to be stood at the back of the crowds with this being my best view of the performances;
China town was a stampede! And I never did make it down the main road.
In relation to the parade, better to be there at the start, rather than wandering around central London looking for it later on as I did. This year the only information I could find short notice of the route was that it starts in Trafalgar and ‘travels around central’ ending in Chinatown.
3. Book restaurants in advance
If you’re looking to trial China towns excellent cuisine, unless you want to queue outside in the cold for a possibility of a space, best to book a table beforehand. China town is busy busy busy and everyone is looking to eat Chinese food.
Time out London has some great recommendations for the best restaurants.
4. Immerse yourself
It will always be more interesting to read around the event and learn about the culture then it is to just queue up to see a dancing dragon (which is still a laugh). The theme of London celebrations this year is celebrating the past and present in Chinese culture – ‘China: Today & Yesterday’.
Definitely stick a date in your calendar for Chinese New Year next year and be sure to take a look at all seasonal festivities in London and embrace urban life. Living in a big city can ironically leave you feeling a bit lonely and scare you into hermit habits. Lack of money can also be a restriction though gigs, cocktails and clubs aren’t all London has to offer. Check out the museums, the parks and subscribe to places like Dojo , Fever , Yplan and Time Out who are always sharing free events. It isn’t always lame and if anything a good opportunity to take selfies. These 4 rules tend to apply to most events in London so just show up early, prepared and open minded and London won’t seem so bleak and daunting.