How to see in the Year of the Dog
London has a significant Chinese population and as a result, the Chinese New Year celebrations are the largest outside of Asia. On 16 February, the Year of the Dog will be ushered in, but many of the festivities in the British capital will take place on Sunday 18 February.
From the colourful parade to the tasty food on offer, an impressive pyrotechnic display and cultural performances, there are lots of ways to mark Chinese New Year in London. Don’t miss any of the action during your stay at the Royal Garden Hotel with this exclusive guide.
Chinese New Year Parade
When you think of Chinese New Year, the chances are that your first image is of the energetic lion and dragon dances that have become world-famous. This ritual is the central part of the parade, which will make its way from Charing Cross Road to Chinatown at 10:00 on the Sunday.
Not only will you be able to see the huge lion and dragon costumes brought to life, but also an impressive procession of colourful characters. More than 30 floats, all decorated for the occasion and accompanied by enthusiastic performers, will bring the party to the streets of London.
Festivities in Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square will be one of the main hubs for this year’s Chinese New Year entertainment. From 12:00 there will be a full line-up of Chinese artists taking to the main stage in the public arena. These acts will include traditional shows, featuring classic musical and dance themes, as well as more modern music, such as hip hop.
Plenty of opportunities will be available to try Chinese flavours, with street food stalls set up in the square. It could be much more convenient than a sit down meal at one of Chinatown’s many restaurants if you have children in tow, who don’t want to be taken away from the entertainment.
The celebrations will come to an end with a fireworks display in Trafalgar Square. The pyrotechnics are said to drive away evil and therefore bring good fortunes for the New Year. They will also bring some much-needed colour to the grey London skies in February.
Leicester Square Family Zone
Immersive activities, such as learning to write Chinese calligraphy and how to wear traditional dress, will be on offer in Leicester Square. These family-friendly enterprises will be particularly good if you’ve got little ones to entertain.
Shaftesbury Avenue Martial Arts and Cultural Zone
If martial arts are more of an interest, then do not miss the opportunity to see demonstrations at a special zone set up on Shaftesbury Avenue. As well as expert tai chi, there will be a traditional flag display and various other cultural performances.
London’s Chinatown is a festival of the senses all year round, but it’s even better to visit during Chinese New Year. The streets will be hung with traditional lanterns and the scene even more inviting. There are no fewer than four intricate gates into Chinatown, with the one on Wardour Street being the biggest Chinese gate in the UK and completed in the style of the Qing Dynasty, welcoming you to the area.
Indulge in a meal at one of Chinatown’s many restaurants or browse the stalls set up especially for Chinese New Year. Look out for lanterns, couplets expressing good wishes and paper cuttings adorning the buildings throughout Chinatown. You may also spot kumquat trees, which represent wealth, and are often hung with the red envelopes that money is gifted in at this time of year.
Min Jiang Restaurant
You don’t have to venture far from your room at the Royal Garden Hotel to enjoy authentic Chinese cuisine. The Min Jiang restaurant is on the tenth floor and offers stunning views of Hyde Park and beyond, as well as delicious oriental flavours.
Whether you wish to taste decadent Beijing duck cooked over a wood fire or would prefer a homemade bean curd wrap, Min Jiang’s menus are brimming with dishes to make your mouth water. If there are four or more of you in your party, then opt for one of the extensive set menus, which will certainly help you mark the Year of the Dog in style.
Min Jiang’s chefs have also put together two special Lunar New Year menus that offer the ultimate in Chinese celebratory food. Most notable of the courses included is the Yu Sheng Salad, which is full of ritual and tradition.
Once it is prepared, all of the constituent parts of the salad will be brought to your table, so that you can assemble them in a specific order and with the corresponding greeting. Fish is added for abundance, lime for luck and oil for a smooth path ahead. The final flourish is to toss the salad in the air using chopsticks and shouting “Lo Hei!” for prosperity.
Bring yourself luck for the coming year
There are several ways to bring luck for the coming year in Chinese culture. Chief among these is wearing something red, so honour the tradition by adding a dash of this vibrant colour to your outfit. Another way to secure your fortunes for the coming year is to go somewhere high. Luckily, there are plenty of tall buildings and attractions in London, so head for The Shard or The London Eye.
Image credit: Tanachot via iStock