Although the majority of Londoners already saw in the New Year less than month ago, the capital is gearing up for doing it all again for Chinese New Year on January 31. London’s lunar new year celebrations are some of the largest anywhere outside Asia — so massive, in fact, are the festivities that they have to be spread over a number of days. With so many events surrounding the Year of the Horse on the docket, it’s hard to keep track of everything. Here’s how you can experience the big day in the right way.
In the days leading up to the New Year, Chinatown is a wonderful place to be. Besides the usual collection of Chinese restaurants, bakeries, pharmacies, supermarkets and souvenir shops, the entire district (which is centered around Gerrard Street in Soho) is festooned with colorful decorations and populated with food, craft and gift stalls for the holiday. Come on January 30 and you’ll be greeted with throngs of local revelers, celebrating with everything from traditional lion dances to ear-busting firecrackers.
London’s main CNY celebrations (which were attended by hundreds of thousands last year) are usually scheduled for the Sunday following the big day — and this year is no different. Head to Trafalgar Square shortly after 10 a.m. February 2 for a full day of festivities. It all starts with a parade through Leicester Square and along Shaftesbury Avenue, before the fun returns to the square that afternoon for a range of free events, including dragon dancing, traditional Chinese music, live theater, acrobatics and speeches. The day culminates with an elaborate fireworks display.
Beyond the holiday weekend, there are a number of cultural events set to commemorate the arrival of the Year of the Horse. On February 15, the National Maritime Museum, the world’s largest maritime museum, will honor British East Asian heritage with a series of workshops and performances (including a traditional lion dance) that explain the long history of cultural exchange between the U.K. and China. Also, through March 16, the Victoria and Albert Museum will host an immersive art exhibit called “Masterpieces of Chinese Painting: Digital Dragons” that will employ innovative motion-tracking equipment to set movable scenes.
Photos Courtesy of Aurelien Guichard and Victoria and Albert Museum