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Dom Bewley

Chinese New Year In London: What You Need To Know

Many of us rang in the new year as the clock struck midnight on 1st January. Likely after imbibing a few more drinks than we'd planned to. Luckily for you, the celebrations don't end there. In fact, the Chinese New Year is fast approaching. So if you feel like going for a second round of New Year's fun, or just want to know more about it, you're in the right place. Here's everything you need to know about Chinese New Year in London. Featuring:

  • When is Chinese New Year
  • The Chinese New Year Parade
  • Places to eat and drink
  • Top tips to celebrate the New Year in style

When is Chinese New Year?

This year, the Chinese New Year falls on 25th January 2020, which is a Saturday. Good news if you want to get involved with the celebrations! This year is the Year of the Rat. It is believed that people born during these years are outgoing and intelligent. So if you see any intelligent and outgoing people walking around, maybe wish them a happy birth year. What's the worst that could happen? People born in 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, and 2008 also share the Year of the Rat. So you're bound to get this right at least some of the time. While New Year lands on the 25th, expect most celebrations to kick into full gear on the 26th January, which is a Sunday. But, if you can't make those dates, don't worry. New year celebrations run from 25th January until 9th February. That's sixteen days of fun. You're sure to feel spoiled by the end of it. And, it certainly puts your typical new year's to shame.

Where are the best places to celebrate Chinese New Year in London?

Arguably the jewel in the Chinese New Year crown is London's Parade. From10am on 26th January, the parade starts at Trafalgar Square. Expect to see elaborate costumes, dragons, ribbons and plenty of colours. With music in tow, the parade will then make its way through London's West End, up Shaftsbury Avenue.

Eventually, the parade culminates in Chinatown, where the party truly begins! There’s a great stage hosting performers and artists, not to mention the typical dragon and lion floats with sheep-themed decorations all around. Typically, this area is a hive of activity and commotion, but during New Year expect way more people and lots more fun. However, if you'd rather stay in Trafalgar Square instead of following the parade, expect some surprises. At around midday, you'll see acrobats, lion dances and dancers performing on stage.

Dine authentic

You're sure to feel peckish while you're out celebrating. But don't you dare run to the nearest cafe or recognisable fast food place. This is Chinese New Year. Look around. We bet you'll see dozens of authentic Chinese restaurants and food stalls all over. With so much on offer, you'll have the chance to try speciality cuisine from every region of the country. So our advice? Pick small dishes or samples, and go on an empty stomach. That way, you might have room to sample it all. Or at least, as much as your finite belly can take. Thank us later.

Top Tips for Chinese New Year in London

Of course, you'll want to make the most of the good times. Think smart. Party smart. Here are our top tips to make sure you make the most of Chinese New Year in London.

  • As we mentioned earlier, this year is the Year of the Rat. So why not embrace our furry, misunderstood friends with a spot of dress up? Ears, whiskers, and a dollop of face paint should do the trick. You're never too old to dress up, after all. Never let anyone tell you otherwise. Alternatively, if you're bringing the little ones, why not dress them up instead. Parenting 101: live vicariously through your children. That way, you can experience all the joy of life without fear of embarrassment.
  • Embrace the language. As you walk the streets, feel free to wish people a ‘happy new year’. In Mandarin, say "Xin Nian Kuai Le" (pronounced sing knee-on koo-why lerr), and in Cantonese, say "San Nin Faai Lok" (san knee fy lock). Get some practice in before you head out, just in case you make a fool of yourself.
  • Plan your journey ahead of time. Driving will be a big no-no, as most of the roads around the celebration will be inaccessible or entirely congested with traffic. Instead, look to get the tube or a bus and walk. If you're coming from out of town, there are lots of hotels you can stay in close to Chinatown. However, they may be fully booked this late in the day.
  • It's January in London, so it'll likely be pretty cold. Dress appropriately for the occasion. Not only will be spending a lot of time outdoors, you'll also be walking around a lot. So thick coats, scarves, comfortable footwear, and an umbrella wouldn't hurt either. It's London, after all. Clouds and their inevitable rainfall can come out of nowhere.
  • You'll likely see a lot of red when wandering the streets of Chinatown, or watching the parade. That's because red is the colour of Chinese New Year. Why not get involved and throw on a little red of your own? Slip on those red cowboy boots you so daringly purchased a decade ago. Or don a red beret, like an inconspicuous spy.
  • It's seen as good luck to also purchase something red during the festivities. So feel free to check out the market stalls peppered around Chinatown for some authentic New Year memorabilia. Toys, ornaments, and more will be on offer. So go on. Do it.
  • Another good luck charm courtesy of Chinese New Year is to get high. As in, get up to a high place, which is culturally referred to as 'climbing high and gazing far'. So why not check out The Shard? Not only will you get the most breathtaking views in the city, but you'll also bring yourself good fortune. At least, that's what they say.

And that's everything you need to know about Chinese New Year in London! Got any more tips or hidden gems you'd recommend for the celebrations? Let us know in the comments. And if you arrive early to the festivities, or want to make the most of your morning, why not wake up with some of the best coffee in the capital?

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