On January 22, millions of people around the world will join together to welcome the new lunar year by welcoming the Year of the Rabbit.
Celebrated throughout China and East and Southeast Asia, the Chinese New Year – called the Lunar New Year in some countries – marks the beginning of the spring festival, which in China and London lasts until February 5, when the traditional festival known as the Lantern Festival takes place.
Marked by traditional costumes, dancing, live performances, a parade and mountains of delicious food, London’s festivities will bring together tens of thousands of Londoners and tourists to experience one of the biggest New Year celebrations outside of Asia. The capital has been celebrating the holiday for about 50 years, and Chinatown has always been an epicenter of activity. While the parade has yet to be officially confirmed, it is expected to take place as it was before the pandemic. Here’s everything you can expect on the big day itself.
When is the Chinese New Year parade?
The exact dates for this year have yet to be confirmed, but historically the parade started at 10am, with festivities starting at 11am in Trafalgar Square. The square will be the center of a lively activity with firecrackers, live performances and a thanksgiving ceremony, as well as the famous lion’s eye ceremony – a highly symbolic moment that allows lions to “see”. As the name suggests, the eyes of a lion are dotted or have pupils. Things usually end around 6pm, though many celebrate well into the evening.
Where is the parade taking place in London?
The parade route should begin on Charing Cross Road, heading north to Shaftesbury Avenue before turning into the heart of Chinatown.
What else is on?
For the rest of the morning and afternoon, there will be plenty of live music, traditional dancing and performances. Martial artists will take to Trafalgar Square, while throngs of street food vendors line the parade route and throughout Chinatown. Expect to see plenty of food typically eaten at this time: dumplings and spring rolls that signify wealth, generous bowls of “longevity” noodles – which signify long life and happiness – and sweet rice balls, a traditional delicacy that symbolizes family togetherness.
Is the event suitable for children and families?
If everything goes as expected and is the same as in previous years, then yes. Performances are suitable for all ages, but families looking for entertainment aimed specifically at children should head to Leicester Square, where they are likely to find activities for the whole family, including arts and crafts, calligraphy and dress-up opportunities.
Chinese New Year in London over the years – In pictures
Where to eat
All of London’s top Chinese restaurants are likely to be busy, so knowing where to go will be key. There are many of the best options in Chinatown; The legend of dumplings (W1, chinatown.co.uk) on Gerrard Street i Gold mine(W1, gold-mine-wardour-street) on Wardour Street are the best for excellent dumplings and dim sum. Food House (W1, 020 7287 2818) and Four Seasons (W1, fs-restaurants.co.uk), located on Gerrard Street, are a must for the exquisite larger plates, including the exceptional duck. TPT cafe (W1, cafetpt.com) also has a great reputation, deservedly so for its delicious and affordable set menus inspired by Hong Kong cafes. For a slightly less traditional option nearby, Luke Farrell is brilliant Motor boat bar on Rupert Street (W1, (speedboatbar.co.uk) is inspired by food from Bangkok’s Chinatown, while Bun House on Lilse Street (W1, bun.house) offers affordable Cantonese-inspired bao – a salty egg custard roll is not to be missed.
However, if you’re not heading to Chinatown, try one of the best Chinese New Year restaurants in the entire capital.
What to wear
Considering the holidays, many people will introduce red into their wardrobes for this day as it signifies good fortune in the coming year – especially relevant this year as the Rabbit is the happiest of all 12 zodiac signs.
How to get to Chinatown
For anyone brave enough to try to drive in, there’s a large Q-Park right in Chinatown, as well as just off Trafalgar Square. That said, it’s probably best to take the tube to Charing Cross (Bakerloo, Northern) or Piccadilly Circus (Piccadilly, Bakerloo) – though be aware that these lines will be busy. Follow the official @TfL on Twitter for real-time service updates, and there will also be road closures due to the parade, so check before you travel.