When it comes to Chinese New Year, London’s celebrations are the biggest and the best outside Asia. The Year of the Goat begins on 19 February but London’s Chinese community is throwing its official party on the following Sunday (22 Feb), ensuring that as many people as possible can take part in this important cultural event.
According to the Chinese Zodiac, those born in the Year of the Goat (2015, 2003, 1991, 1979 and so on) are mild-mannered, creative, dependable and calm. They love to be in groups rather than the centre of attention and enjoy spending money on the finer things in life. But even the shyest of goat personalities will love throwing themselves into London’s official Chinese New Year celebrations, which attract around 200,000 people to the capital’s famous Chinatown each year.
The area’s Chinese identity dates back to World War II when Chinese Londoners were forced to look for a new place to settle when their previous home, Limehouse in east London, was badly damaged by German bombing. This area was officially recognised as Chinatown in 1985 and is now Europe’s largest, with more than 220 Chinese businesses in operation.
London’s Chinese New Year celebrations get more spectacular every year, with a colourful parade making its way from Chinatown to Trafalgar Square through streets lined with red and gold paper lanterns. Elaborate dragon puppets, vibrant floats and hundreds of dancers in traditional costume lead the crowds to Trafalgar Square, where performances and activities take place all afternoon.
One of the highlights of the day is the lion dance, a tradition that has been taking place as part of Chinese New Year celebrations for centuries. Also on the bill are music and acrobatic performances from internationally renowned and local acts. It all makes for an auspicious start to the Year of the Goat.
But any time of year, there are plenty of ways to experience Chinatown. Annual events aside, you can get cozy in stylish cocktail bar Opium, where Eric Yu’s chic venue creates unique cocktails using Chinese ingredients—take a seat at the huge wooden bartenders table to see the mixologists at work.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, you’ll be spoilt for choice for places to eat. Chinatown is renowned for its vast array of Asian cuisine. Ever since Chinese immigrants settled here, and set up eateries specializing in cuisine from their native country, the aromas from Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese restaurants fill the air.
Look out for local artwork, including Flowing, which you’ll find at the corner of Gerrard Place and Shaftesbury Avenue, is a new piece by Singaporean artist Chua Boon Kee. It’s just the latest in a series of Chinatown commissions that include the three arched gateways and The Lion, a giant statue of a feline climbing down the wall on Wardour Street.