Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring festival, in London is marked as one of the most exciting events in February, full of colour, noise, and incredibly eccentric characters. 2018 commemorates the Year of the Dog.
The tale of the Chinese Zodiac determines the order of the zodiac. The legend holds that the Jade Emperor wanted to select 12 animals to be his guards. He sent an immortal being to spread the news throughout the earth; the order of the zodiac would be determined by which animal would pass the heavenly gates first.
The Dog is the 11th of all zodiac animals. Qualities of the zodiac animals are associated with the people born in their years; for the Dog these include honesty, loyalty, a grounded-ness and reliability.
Celebrating Chinese New Year in London, like with many big festivals in the city, is a wonderful, wonderful occasion to get stuck in and truly experience the holiday for what it can offer. This year was absolutely filled with music, acrobatic shows and activities.
Red engulfs Chinatown for those few days; the colour symbolises a desire to send good wishes and luck for the coming year. This year six things stood out as being brilliant fun:
1. The Docklands offered a few classes on calligraphy, which is an integral part of the festivities Banners across London spelt out holiday wishes for the coming year.
2. Authentic lion dances and taekwondo taster sessions were also on offer in this part of London for anyone travelling Southeast.
3. Slightly closer to home in Soho, amongst the bright red lanterns, the China Exchange was running a class on classical Chinese dances in traditional dress. Definitely a strong contender for one of the best experiences this year, alongside the dragon-lion dance down Gerrard Street.
Of course, Chinese New year wouldn’t be anything without the delightful treats and delicacies available during this time. Greek Street offered a hidden gem of true authentic Northern Chinese cuisine, for those of us who find the hustle and bustle of Chinatown a bit much.
4. For something a little more down to earth and which spoke to the inner child, Greenwich Market’s food court offered some classic Chinese New Year dishes. Dumplings, Spring Rolls, Tangyuan (Sweet Rice Balls), Orange Good Fortune Fruit, Niangao (Rice Cake), Noodles, and Fish all represent seven lucky traits: wealth; family; prosperity; fortune; and happiness.
5. The other activity which entertained and kept everyone busy was making origami lanterns and cranes, which are surprisingly easy once you’ve worked out the pattern.
6. For a more sophisticated afternoon, experts at Hackney Herbal brought a new meaning to High Tea. Upon arrival, experts guided you through the prepping and properties of different herbs before learning how to create your own blend, which is appropriate to you.
Either way, as long as you were part of the action, and definitely got a few photos of the lion dance, you celebrated Chinese New year in style this year. If you missed it, there’s always next year!