The Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, is a 4,000-year-old festival with its origins varying from teller to teller. Legend has it that a terrible mythical lion like beast Nian (the Chinese word for year) is said to have preyed on the Chinese villagers, believing that the beast was afraid of the colour red, the villagers placed red scrolls on windows, hung red lanterns, wore red clothes and used firecrackers to scare Nian from the village, never to return. New Year is the day they celebrate their freedom, which is why today the main colour of celebration is red.
Unlike the earlier western celebration, the date of Chinese New Year changes every year based on the lunar calendar. This, the year of the witty monkey, sees celebrations fall on February 8th 2016. Explore below how Chinese New Year is celebrated in other parts of the world and across the UK.
Hong Kong really pushes the boat out for this special event. Its charm comes from the heady mix of ancient traditions coupled with modern fun for the younger generation. Three days of celebrations are kicked off with the main event, Tsim Sha Tsui Night Parade where float after brightly lit float carry amazing performances, music, and dance. You’ll even find Disney characters joining in and Mickey Mouse dressed in a traditional red number. The awe-inspiring fireworks display over the stunning skyline of Victoria Harbour is a sight not to be missed.
San FranciscoChinese New Year Parade by May Wong/CCYB (Image size has been modified)
Organisers claim San Francisco’s celebration is the largest outside Asia, which seems to have grown to a staggering degree. Last year it drew a whopping one million spectators along the route, flocking to see over 5,000 performers and 100 parade floats. Every year they host Miss Chinatown USA pageant, a concert by San Francisco Symphony, and even a basketball Jamboree - who knows what 2016 holds?
London is a relative newcomer to the global Chinese New Year scene, and it’s already one of the biggest outside Asia. This one-day festival is jam packed with action across Trafalgar Square, Shaftsbury Avenue and of course Chinatown itself. At the big opening ceremony, expect to see acrobats, traditional dance and song recitals by artists visiting from China, while Shaftsbury Avenue usually hosts new up and coming acts by locals. Just like Christmas, Chinese New Year is all about getting together and enjoying a meal with family and friends, and London’s Chinatown is literally bursting with great eateries. To follow in Chinese Tradition, order a whole chicken dish which represents ‘happiness for the whole family’ or a fish meaning ‘may there be surpluses every year’.
ManchesterSmaller Dragon by Beverley Goodwin/Creative Commons(Image size has been modified)
Last year, Manchester council made huge efforts to give Chinese New Year celebrations a real boost, forming partnerships with Cathay Pacific and other big sponsors. Their hard work paid off with a celebration to remember – St Anne’s Square held a food market showcasing some of the best Chinatown eateries, a stunning lightshow projected onto St Anne’s church was a unique twist on the usual, a travelling circus roamed the streets depicting the legend of Nian, and martial arts and dragon dancing took place at the Arndale. All this and more, ended with the famous dragon parade and fireworks in Albert Square.
LiverpoolThe Year of the Horse by Beverley Goodwin/Creative Commons(Image size has been modified)
Host to the first Chinatown in Europe, you certainly know when you’ve arrived in the spiritual home of Liverpool’s 10,000 strong Chinese community. The Imperial Arch is the largest outside of China, standing 15 metres tall and spanning the width of Nelson Street, the arch was imported piece by piece, all the way from China and rebuilt by Chinese Craftsmen. It’s one of the great sights of Liverpool any time of year, but visit at Chinese New Year and you’ll see it in all its glory.
Possibly the biggest celebration in the midlands, last year Birmingham’s Chinatown festivities attracted over 30,000 locals and tourists. Inge Street and Hurst Street close at 11am to set up the 25 or so market stalls - all selling Chinese food and traditional crafts. An afternoon of dance and performances entertain the crowds, ending with a spectacular fireworks display exploding over Birmingham city.
Just because Nottingham doesn’t have its own Chinatown, it doesn’t stop the city celebrating the occasion with as much excitement as the rest of the country, and Highfields Park is the place to do it. The Lakeside Arts Centre within the park devises a special programme of performances, exhibitions, and workshops with an eagerly anticipated fireworks display to end the night. Last year saw traditional dancing from the Nottingham Chinese School, magical face changing performances, and screenings of prize-winning films. This year promises to be just as impressive.
Whether celebrating the Chinese New Year or heading on a weekend getaway, our city centre hotels are just a stone’s throw away from the major attractions and events – plan a trip today!
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