Celebrating Chinese New Year, London Style

Students who pick a homestay for their accommodation sometimes find that they are able to build a social relationship with their host family. London holds many multicultural celebrations that give you the perfect opportunity to celebrate together.

Chinese New Year is coming up this month and I think this is an event that is a perfect excuse for an outing with your host family. London’s celebrations are spectacular and they attract people from many different cultures. I would recommend that you attend no matter what, but it’s a nice opportunity to go out together if you and your London family are looking to build a relationship.

What is it?

China follows a lunar calendar and on the last day of the final month up until the 15th day of the first month in the new year, they (and the rest of the world) will be welcoming in the Year of the Pig with festivities.

London has a thriving Chinese community and, over the last 20 years, its members have thrown an annual party in the capital that these days attracts visitors from across the globe. The festivities have been said to rival the New Year celebrations that fall at the end of December, so if you missed the displays on 31 December you will essentially get a second chance to be impressed!

When is it?

The actual day is on 5 February but the London celebrations will take place on Sunday 10 February.

Where is it?

The festivities will take place in three main locations that are very close to each other: Chinatown, the West End and Trafalgar Square. I would strongly encourage you to walk as much as possible between each location as the celebrations tend to spill over into all the side streets.

You can start your visit from any of the following tube stations: Charing Cross, Embankment, Leicester Square or Tottenham Court Road.

  • Trafalgar Square: see acrobats, dance performances, lion and dragon dances and music. There will be stalls serving Chinese food here.
  • Shaftesbury Avenue: watch martial arts demonstrations, hear classical music and exciting DJs.
  • Leicester Square: you’ll find craft stalls, performers dressed as zodiac animals and activities that might appeal to your host family if they have children.

The street parade will start at Charing Cross Road at 10am on Sunday 5 February. Events will be happening from noon to 6pm and the grand finale in Trafalgar Square will start at around 5.30pm.

How to Celebrate

There are a few traditions that you might want to explore if you are planning to experience Chinese New Year in London. If you attend the parades then you can certainly dress up. Wear red or paint your face to look like a pig in honour of the Year of the Pig.

Here are a few other ideas that might be nice to try with your homestay family.

  • Buy something red to bring luck to the house of your host London’s Chinatown is the perfect source of authentic Chinese decorations that will bring you luck.
  • Dine together on a whole chicken to ‘bring happiness’ to your host family. Londoners will be enjoying the symbolic foods of chicken and fish during the celebrations.
  • Find somewhere high to climb as the Chinese believe that ‘climbing high to gaze afar’ on New Year’s Day will bring luck to your studies, career and future. I’d recommend saving your visit to the Shard or to the London Eye for this special day.

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