On the January 22, millions of people worldwide will join together to ring in of the new lunar year, welcoming the year of the Rabbit.
Celebrated across China and throughout east and south-east Asia, the Chinese New Year — referred to in some countries as the Lunar New Year — marks the beginning of the spring festival, with celebrations in both China and London running until February 5, when the traditional holiday known as the Lantern Festival falls.
Marked by traditional costume, dancing, live performances, a parade and mountains of delicious food, London’s festivities will see tens of thousands of Londoners and tourists alike join together for one of the biggest New Year celebrations outside Asia. The capital has celebrated the occasion for around 50 years, and Chinatown has always been the epicentre for activity. While the parade is yet to be officially confirmed, it’s anticapted that it will go ahead as it did pre-pandemic. Here’s everything to expect on the big day itself.
When is the Chinese New Year parade?
Exact timings for this year are still to be confirmed but historically, the parade has kicked off at 10am, with festivities starting in Trafalgar square from 11am. The square will be a hub of vibrant activity with firecrackers, live performances and a thanksgiving ceremony, as well as the famous lions eye-dotting ceremony — a highly symbolic moment that enables the lions to ‘see’. Just as the name suggests, the eyes of the lion are dotted, or given pupils. Things tend to wrap up about 6pm, though many keep celebrating late into the evening.
Where in London is the parade?
The route of the parade should start on Charing Cross road, heading north to Shaftesbury avenue, before turning into the heart of Chinatown.
What else is on?
Throughout the rest of the morning and into the afternoon there will be plenty of live music, traditional dance and performances. Martial artists will take to Trafalgar Square and hoards of street food vendors will line the streets of the parade route and throughout Chinatown. Expect to see lots of food typically eaten around this time: dumplings and spring rolls that signify wealth, hearty bowls of ‘longevity’ noodles — which denote a long life and happiness — and sweet rice balls, a traditional treat that symbolises family togetherness.
Is the event appropriate for children and families?
If it goes as expected, and is much the same as in previous years, then yes. Performances are suitable for all ages, but families looking for entertainment geared specifically towards children should head to Leicester Square, where they’ll likely find family-friendly activities, including arts and crafts, calligraphy and dressing up opportunities.
Chinese New Year in London over the years - In pictures
Where to eat
All of London’s best Chinese restaurants will likely be busy so knowing where to go will be crucial. In Chinatown there are plenty of top options; Dumplings’ Legend (W1, chinatown.co.uk) on Gerrard Street and Gold Mine (W1, gold-mine-wardour-street) on Wardour Street are best for excellent dumplings and dim sum. Food House (W1, 020 7287 2818) and Four Seasons (W1, fs-restaurants.co.uk), which are both on Gerrard Street, are must visits for exquisite larger plates including some exceptional duck. Cafe TPT (W1, cafetpt.com) also has a sterling reputation, deservedly so with their delicious and affordable set menus inspired by Hong Kong cafes. For a somewhat less traditional option nearby, Luke Farrell’s brilliant Speedboat Bar on Rupert Street (W1, (speedboatbar.co.uk) is inspired by dishes found in Bangkok’s Chinatown, while Bun House on Lilse Street (W1, bun.house) offers up some great value Cantonese-inspired bao — the salted egg custard bun is not to be missed.
If you don’t happen to be heading into Chinatown though, try one of the best restaurants celebrating the Chinese New Year across the capital.
What to wear
Given the festivities, many will adopt red into their wardrobes for the day as this signifies good luck for the coming year — particularly pertinent this year as the Rabbit is the luckiest of all the 12 zodiac signs.
How to get to Chinatown
For anyone brave enough to try and drive in, there is a large Q-Park in Chinatown itself, as well as one just off Trafalgar Square. That said, the tube to Charing Cross (Bakerloo, Northern) or Piccadilly Circus (Piccadilly, Bakerloo) will likely be your best bet — though bear in mind, these lines will will be busy. Follow the official @TfL on Twitter for real-time service updates and, owing to the parade there will also be road closures, so be sure to check before you travel.