How to celebrate the Chinese New Year in Trafalgar Square
Welcome to our guide on celebrating the Chinese New Year in the vibrant city of London! The Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is a momentous occasion steeped in centuries of tradition, cultural significance, and festive splendour. As the city comes alive with the spirit of this auspicious event, we invite you to join us on a journey through the enchanting streets of London, where ancient customs meet modern celebrations.
London’s multicultural tapestry makes it the perfect setting for embracing the rich heritage of Chinese traditions. From bustling parades to intricate decorations, from mouthwatering feasts to mesmerizing performances, the city offers a kaleidoscope of experiences that capture the essence of this cherished festival.
In this blog, we’ll unveil the key ingredients to ensure your Chinese New Year celebration in London is an unforgettable experience. Whether you’re a local resident or a visitor from afar, there’s something for everyone to enjoy – from the lively energy of the parade to the tranquility of participating in time-honoured ceremonies. Join us as we explore the various facets of this vibrant celebration and provide you with insider tips to make the most of your time during this festive season.
So, if you’re ready to be immersed in the colours, flavours, and traditions of the Chinese New Year in one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities, read on. Let’s embark on a journey of cultural discovery and festive delight.
Where to celebrate the Chinese New Year?
Annually, Trafalgar Square becomes the epicenter of Chinese New Year celebrations, a widely recognized event marked by the Chinese zodiac animals. In the upcoming year of 2024, the celebrated animal is the dragon, a quintessential symbol of China. This promises an exceptionally lively and festive atmosphere, as the dragon takes center stage in the commemoration.
Dotting of the the dragons with the Mayor of London Saddiq Khan
What time is Chinese New Year parade London?
The Chinese New Year Parade route in London commences at 10 am on Charing Cross Road and winds its way through the vibrant streets, culminating in the heart of Chinatown on Shaftesbury Avenue. The exact duration of the parade can vary based on the number of participants, performances, and crowd interactions, but on average, the parade typically lasts around 1.5 to 2 hours from start to finish. This timeframe includes the time it takes for the procession to navigate through the designated route, showcasing colorful floats, traditional performances, and lively cultural displays. It’s important to note that arrival times, pauses, and overall pace may impact the overall duration of the parade experience.
The Chinese New Year Parade
Weather in January
As January marks the start of the Chinese New Year, London’s weather can be quite unpredictable. Rapid shifts from sunshine to rain are not uncommon, so it’s wise to be prepared. Keep your umbrella handy, even if it means holding it throughout your time at the festivities. Additionally, donning a sturdy, thick hoodie coat ensures you stay comfortable regardless of the weather’s whims.
By keeping these insights in mind, you’ll be well-equipped to savour the multicultural splendor of the Chinese New Year celebrations while navigating the varying conditions London might throw your way.
Crowds in front of stalls selling Chinese goodies
There are so many things to do in Trafalgar Square during the Chinese New Year. The ceremony started with a big bang with the Mayor of London, the Councillor of Westminster and the Chinese Ambassador talking. Read below to find out more of what you will see during the ceremony.
The Dragon Dance
The Dragon Dance is a captivating and vibrant tradition that takes center stage during the Chinese New Year celebrations in London. This dynamic performance symbolizes strength, good luck, and prosperity, making it a cornerstone of the festive atmosphere. Here’s a closer look at the Dragon Dance in London:
The atmosphere in Trafalgar Square
Martial Arts performances during the Chinese New Year celebrations in London add an electrifying dimension to the festivities. These displays of skill and discipline showcase the essence of Chinese martial arts, drawing spectators into a world of precision and artistry. Here’s a glimpse into what you can expect from the Martial Arts demonstrations:
Precision and Mastery: Martial Arts performers demonstrate a level of precision and mastery that reflects years of dedicated practice. Every movement is calculated, combining physical prowess with mental focus to create a seamless and captivating performance.
Variety of Styles: The Martial Arts demonstrations encompass a diverse range of styles, each with its own history, philosophy, and techniques. From fluid Tai Chi routines to dynamic Kung Fu forms, these displays showcase the depth and breadth of Chinese martial arts traditions.
Cultural Symbolism: Martial Arts hold cultural significance beyond physical combat. They embody principles of discipline, respect, and honor. The performances often incorporate symbolic gestures and stances that reflect these values, offering spectators a deeper connection to Chinese culture.
Energetic Routines: Expect energetic routines that captivate the audience’s attention. The Martial Arts demonstrations are a display of strength, flexibility, and agility. Flurries of kicks, punches, and acrobatic movements underscore the dynamism of these performances.
Storytelling through Movement: Much like a dance, Martial Arts performances tell stories through movement. The performers convey narratives that can range from mythical tales to historical events, adding an extra layer of engagement to the display.
Audience Interaction: Many Martial Arts performances encourage audience participation. Spectators might be invited to try basic movements, fostering a sense of connection and appreciation for the artistry involved.
Bridge Between Traditions and Modernity: The Martial Arts demonstrations bridge the gap between ancient traditions and modern-day celebrations. They serve as a reminder of the enduring legacy of Chinese culture while embracing the contemporary spirit of the Chinese New Year festivities.
Unity in Diversity: London’s multicultural environment is reflected in these demonstrations. Martial Arts performers from various backgrounds come together to showcase their craft, celebrating diversity while honoring the shared heritage of Chinese martial arts.
Inspiration and Admiration: Watching Martial Arts performances during the Chinese New Year celebrations is an inspiring experience. It’s a chance to admire the dedication, discipline, and artistry of the performers while drawing inspiration from their commitment to their craft.
As you witness the Martial Arts demonstrations in London, you’re immersing yourself in a display of physical prowess, cultural heritage, and artistic expression. It’s a window into the world of Chinese martial arts, where tradition and innovation intertwine to create a spellbinding experience.
What time does London China Town open?
Exploring Chinatown comes at no cost, with the majority of eateries typically commencing service from 12 p.m. until midnight; however, certain establishments might extend their hours until 4 a.m, depending on their business.
Is London China Town open during the Chinese New Year?
Yes, China Town is indeed open during the Chinese New Year celebrations. In fact, it becomes one of the liveliest and most bustling areas in London as people gather to revel in the festivities. The atmosphere in Chinatown was reminiscent of any other ordinary day in the bustling district. However, due to the popularity of the celebrations, China Town can become quite crowded, so it’s advisable to plan your visit accordingly.
Above, a sea of red and yellow lanterns adorned buildings, casting a warm glow overhead. The red lanterns that adorned the streets were not exclusive to the celebration – they adorned the area every day. Amidst the colourful scenery, pedestrians traversed in various directions, their paths intersecting as they captured moments beneath the Chinese lanterns.
With the sight of rows of Chinese restaurants, an elongated queue of eager patrons stood outside, a mix of those awaiting tables, those with reservations, and establishments sporting “Reservations only” signs on their windows. The scene was astonishing; every corner was teeming with activity, yet securing a table for the celebration proved a daunting task.
A distant rhythmic clanking reached your ears. Gradually, the sound grew more pronounced, drawing larger crowds to its source. Amidst the growing clamour, a dragon’s tail emerged into view, soaring through the air and repeating its graceful movements multiple times through the cobbled pavements of China Town. The area’s pedestrian-only nature facilitated ample opportunities to witness these enchanting performances.
As the dragon approached, the crowd surged forward, vying for optimal positions to capture the spectacle on their phones. Amid the mounting excitement, a security officer’s voice rose above the commotion, urging everyone to step back for a better view of the dragons. The dragons eventually made their way into the restaurants to entertain diners, and spectators congregated eagerly at the entrances. “PLEASE STAND BACK AND LET THE DRAGONS PASS, THEY’LL COME OUT FROM THIS RESTAURANT,” the security officer’s voice echoed once more.
The atmosphere outside was still crowded with people, litter strewn all over the floor, and dragons still entertained walkers. Rain continued to pour, after rain came the sunshine, then it poured again, but the crowds began to disperse and ready to go home.
Oh, what a day!! It was exhausting, so glad I’m on the train home.
Check out Chinatown’s website for more information on events, attractions, restaurants and more.
For an unobstructed view of the stage, the steps in front of the National Gallery are your go-to spot. This location provides ample space and relatively fewer people, ensuring you can relish the festivities without feeling hemmed in. Venturing further toward the stage might result in being packed within the crowd, limiting your view – particularly challenging if umbrellas and taller individuals are in the mix. While navigating through tightly packed spaces can be a tad overwhelming, having a selfie stick on hand can offer some relief and potentially enhance your perspective.
If your plan is to celebrate the Chinese New Year at Trafalgar Square, it’s essential to be ready for a few key factors: the bustling crowds, securing a good view as the stage might be obstructed, weather considerations, plotting out your destinations, and arranging your dining options. This comprehensive guide has you covered, ensuring your readiness to fully enjoy the Chinese New Year festivities at Trafalgar Square. By staying organized, you’ll be sure not to overlook any critical details. Keep reading to ensure you’re well-prepared for a day filled with celebrations.
Like any other events in Central London, it’s advisable to get there half an hour to an hour early to avoid the crowds.
If you’re considering booking lunch or dinner at one of the restaurants in China Town, it’s recommended to make reservations well in advance. Given the high demand during the Chinese New Year period, it’s a good idea to secure your dining arrangements a few days or even weeks before your intended visit. This way, you can ensure you have a seat at your preferred restaurant and avoid the disappointment of not finding availability on the day. The queue on the day can be a 15 – 30 minute wait, which can dampen any mood.
By making reservations ahead of time, you not only guarantee your spot for a delicious meal but also provide yourself with a more seamless and enjoyable experience, given the potential crowds. This foresight allows you to savour the culinary delights of China Town without the worry of long wait times or unavailability.
While China Town is open during the Chinese New Year celebrations, it’s essential to anticipate the crowds and plan ahead by making reservations for lunch or dinner. Doing so ensures you can fully relish the festive atmosphere and partake in the culinary delights of this vibrant and culturally rich neighborhood.
Most restaurants in Chinatown are quite small and there’s not enough room to walk around. Even if it’s a big restaurant, the tables are squeezed together, it will look like you’re eating with the strangers sitting next to you.
If you want to try street food, make sure you get there early to avoid the long queue. You might miss a show.
Bring an umbrella, a raincoat, a thin or thick jumper with a hood depending on how heavy the rain is. At times, it can get sunny sporadically, other times, you’d only get sprinkles of rain for 10 minutes and heavy rain for another 10 minutes. Be prepared for different weather forecasts in one day.
After Chinatown, visit several social gathering places such as Leicester Square, the home of film premiers, and a chance to sit in the square overlooking the Shakespeare Statue and the surrounding fountains. It’s a great time to relax after the show. While you’re here, you can shop around for 50% off tickets on theatre shows on the same day in Shaftesbury Avenue and watch major long-running theatre shows like Les Misérables, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and Michael Jackson’s Thriller. When COVID restrictions have been lifted, I’ll write a review on the shows, and how easy, or hard to get the 50% off tickets.
You can also visit Piccadilly Circus, where you can take pictures of the Statue of Eros overlooking the billboards.
You can visit Regent Street and Oxford Street for some late-night shopping or visit Soho for a vibrant nightlife.
Check out my post on other events in Trafalgar Square here. The celebrations are usually different, but the crowds are the same.
Leicester Square is next to Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus is linked to Leicester Square.
Check out the free National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery, 2 of the 9 free museums and galleries you must visit, opposite Trafalgar Square, if your feet can handle it. You will see the Admiralty Arch here too. Walkthrough there, and you will see St. James’ Park, Buckingham Palace and The Horseguard Parade as well as as the Churchill War Museum, all next to each other. Visit my West End Walk for more information on the attractions mentioned above. Alternatively, you can take the bus numbers 12, 159, and 453, (tap your Oyster Card, they’ll charge you £1.50 per bus journey, and takes you there in 10 minutes. Pre-COVID, buses can be packed, so be careful) from Trafalgar Square to Westminster towards the Southbank. It talks about things to do in the Southbank, and tips on walking by the Southbank, near the River Thames.
Alternatively, if you walk 14 minutes from Trafalgar Square to Westminster, you’ll be able to get up close and personal with the Queen’s guards at Horse Guard Parade, and see people protesting outside 10 Downing Street (You won’t see the Number 10 door though. You’ll only a tall black ironed gate with police officers). You won’t get lost, just walk towards Big Ben as your guide. You’ll see the Big Ben Clock Tower from Trafalgar Square.
After the celebration, check out other parts of the West End in the evening, but make sure you get some rest.
In the meantime, be safe and take care!!!