Chinese New Year is China's biggest celebration of the year, and as a result of the number of Chinese people living in and visiting London, there is plenty to do in London around this time of year too! There is no better introduction to Chinese culture if you've never been to China before, or no better reminder of your trip than getting involved in the festivities!
Because the dates of Chinese New Year follow the lunar calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar, dates change every year. In 2021, Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, is celebrated from February 11th (which is Chinese New Year's Eve) through to February 17th.
Chinese New Year's Traditions: When to celebrate in London
On Chinese New Year's Eve (this year on February 11th), families usually have big reunion dinners together after everyone has traveled home from far, and give lucky envelopes (also known as red packets) to the kids in the family. The next day (February 12th, officially Day 1 of Chinese New Year), is usually spent offering sacrifices to ancestors, as well as setting off firecrackers with the family.
That is why London's main celebrations are on February 13th in 2021. Other days leading up to the main festivities, as well as the days after, you'll still find Chinatown beautifully decorated and everyone in high spirits!
This article gives you some insight into what Chinese people do for the festival in London, travel information, and places and events where you can celebrate the Year of the Ox in London.
How to celebrate Chinese New Year in London
To welcome the Year of the Rat to London, you'll find displays, food stalls with traditional Chinese foods, performances, and a parade for Chinese New Year. Did you know that London's Chinese New Year festivities are actually the largest outside of Asia?
The main stage for performances are a fantastic way to gain an introduction into Chinese dance and music as there will be plenty to see from some of the most talented British-Chinese performers.
Why not also spend this time in the area to visit one of your favorite Chinese restaurants (or explore somewhere new) to enjoy Chinese cuisine? While many of the restaurants in China town to cater to British tastes, there are lots of wonderful things to eat!
Dumplings especially are a food that is traditionally eaten during this time of year as they represent wealth, and you'll find plenty of these in London's Chinatown. If you prefer, you can also eat noodles, which because of their length, represent longevity as well as happiness.
Where you can celebrate Chinese New Year in London and how to get there
Chinatown and West London are the centre of the Chinese community in London, and this is where celebrations take place.
To get to London's Chinatown, take the tube and get off at Leicester Square Tube Station (serviced by the Northern and Piccadilly Lines), Covent Garden Tube Station (serviced by the Piccadilly Line), Piccadilly Circus (serviced by the Bakerloo and the Piccadilly Lines), or Tottenham Court Road Tube Station (serviced by the Central and Northern Lines).
The parade on February 13th starts from Charing Cross Road and goes all the way through Shaftesbury Avenue into Chinatown. There is no entry fee for the parade or celebrations on Trafalgar Square, and the parade will start at 11:00 in the morning and run through to 16:30 in the afternoon. If you want to get a good spot, please ensure to get there early as it is a very popular parade and it gets busy! This is also a good thing to keep in mind if you're traveling down to the celebrations with children.
The main stage for performances is in Trafalgar Square, while other stages can be found on Shaftesbury Avenue and on Charing Cross Road. Trafalgar Square celebrations will kick off with ceremony to give thanks to sponsors and the community, as well as firecrackers and a Lion's dance ceremony which is always incredible to watch as it takes so many performers to work closely together.
Want to celebrate Chinese New Year in China instead of London?
Celebrating Chinese New Year in China is, of course, the best and most authentic way to do it, and nowhere is more fun than Beijing, the country's capital. China Highlights can help you arrange a tour to kick off the Year of the Rat in Beijing, or anywhere else you'd like to go.
- Interested in finding out more about why the year 2021 is also known as the Year of the Ox according to Chinese New Year traditions? Read more about the Chinese Zodiac here.
- Not sure where to start to find out more about Chinese New Year in general, regardless of whether you are in London or China? We've summarized 10 Facts about Chinese New Year.
- Before you head off to join in the Chinese New Year celebrations or visit your friends at their houses during this important time of the year, make sure to read up about the traditions' taboos to ensure that you don't embarrass yourself!
- For a more in-depth day-by-day rundown of the festivities in a Chinese family, see our day-to-day guide here.
- Certain foods are eaten for certain reasons during Chinese New Year, find out more about why people eat specific types of Chinese food, and which foods these are, here.
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