The Year of the Monkey is coming up (Monday February 8 2016)
Chinese New Year in London is one of the most spectacular in the West with over 300,000 people taking part in the celebrations across the capital. This year, the Year of the Monkey, the London celebrations take place on 14th February 2016 – making it a double date with Valentine’s Day – with activities taking place in Chinatown, Leicester Square, Shaftesbury Avenue and Trafalgar Square. Festivities begin at 10am with a parade which begins at Duncannon Street, moving along Charing Cross Road and Shaftesbury Avenue. An official opening ceremony then takes place in Trafalgar Square with speeches from special guests. Once officially opened, the celebrations really kick off with Dragon dancing, music and performances. Join the throng in a stall-covered Chinatown for fun and firecrackers on and around Gerrard Street, Lisle Street and Shaftesbury Avenue where there are impromptu parties, food stalls and lion dancing. Heres our quick guide on the new year and make sure you plan well.
1. Plan Your Journey
It’s the biggest Chinese New Year celebration in the world outside Asia, so be prepared for lots of people. If you don’t want to miss the fantastic celebrations, plan your journey in advance to avoid congestion using Transport for London’s Journey Planner. And don’t even think about driving. If you’d rather stay within walking distance, book one of these hotels near Chinatown.
2. Wrap-Up Warm and Forget the Heels
You’ll be on your feet all day, so wearing sturdy shoes and being comfortable and warm is key to a fun day out. Remember to bring an umbrella in case it’s raining. You’ll probably be taking photos or holding decorations all the time, so make sure to wear a pair of warm gloves.
3. Learn Chinese New Year Greetings
People will say “Happy New Year” to you mainly in Cantonese and Mandarin. It’s polite and fun to respond in the same language. To say “Happy New Year” in Cantonese is “San Nin Faai Lok” (pronounced san knee fy lock) and in Mandarin is “Xin Nian Kuai Le” (pronounced sing nee-ann koo-why ler).
4. Honour Year of the Monkey
2016 is the Year of the Monkey. The Chinese Zodiac decrees that people born this year are gregarious, intelligent and witty – people born in 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, or 2004 were also born in the Year of the Monkey. You’ll find out more about the Year of the Monkey during the festival, which is a fantastic opportunity to get close to Chinese culture.
5. Dress Up
Red is the key colour of Chinese New Year. You can dress up with a red scarf, jumper or shoes – this will bring good luck for the coming year. If you’re taking your kids to the event, let them bring monkey toys or paint their faces with monkey motifs.
6. Buy Something Red
To bring luck to your year, Chinese tradition dictates that you should buy something red for yourself or your house. Chinatown is a fantastic place for authentic Chinese shopping. Paper-cut window grilles, lanterns and monkey toys are all ideal decorations to have for celebrating Chinese New Year and bringing good luck.
Chinese New Year London events
London’s annual Chinese New Year celebrations, the biggest in the world outside China, bring a swathe of Chinatown to riotous life once again for 2016 and the year of the monkey. The parade along Charing Cross Road and Shaftesbury Avenue begins at 10am, with a Dragon and Lion Dance on the stage in the square from noon to 1pm, after which there will be Lion Dances throughout Chinatown until about 5pm.
Chinese New Year Family Festival Day
Tribes of families will be heading to the National Gallery to mark Chinese New Year, which in 2016 celebrates the Year of the Monkey. Little ones can get stuck into a wide range of activities including Chinese Zodiac trails (10am-4pm), a mask making workshop (11am-noon) and sessions exploring ancient instruments and traditional storytelling.
Chinese New Year at the V&A Museum of Childhood
Music and dance performances will fill the Museum of Childhood in celebration of Chinese New Year and the year of the monkey. Drop in workshops for all ages will cover mask and lantern making, plus costume and calligraphy classes. The London Centre for Book Arts will also be running book making workshops between 11am-4pm.
Chinese New Year at the National Maritime Museum
The Chinese Year of the Monkey is upon us, and the NMM will once again be celebrating British East Asian heritage with workshops, performances and activities for families. It’s the perfect place to learn more about our long history of trade and cultural exchange with China.
Where to eat for Chinese New Year
At Baozi Inn, kitsch Communist Revolution decor meets northern Chinese street food tidied up for London. True to Sichuanese form, red is present in most dishes – if not as a slick of potent chilli oil, then in lashings of sliced or whole chillies. The kitchen occasionally gets things wrong, but when it’s on song – which is often – the food is spicy, delicious and cheap.
It’s not unusual to see a big menu in Chinatown, but such a vast repertoire seems impossible from a kitchen galley the size of an origami boat. Not so, because dishes from Hong Kong, mainland China and the diaspora are all produced competently, and some of them with commendable aplomb. TPT isn’t the cheapest of the budget Chinatown cafés, but both cooking and service are better than you might expect.
Famed for their Cantonese-style roast duck, this modest restaurant displays barbecued meats – pork ribs, pork belly and whole ducks – in the window facing busy Wardour Street. Of the two Four Seasons in Chinatown, this branch has the friendlier service. Four Seasons is a decent restaurant for a late night meal in central London that wouldn’t burn a hole in your pocket.
The interior is bigger than the narrow frontage suggests; staff will hasten you towards any unoccupied booth seating. The menu covers Chinese standards, such as roast duck (impressively succulent), but on our last visit we were most struck by the generosity of the seafood (scallops, carved squid) in a noodle dish. Everything was perfectly cooked and the service was gracious, which is reflected in the prices being a little higher than the Wardour Street norm.