Chinese New Year falls on January 23rd in 2012 and will mark the beginning of the Year of the Dragon, the most auspicious sign of the Chinese zodiac.
In London, the holiday will be observed in grand fashion on Sunday the 29th with the arrival of the Dragon to the West End and huge celebrations taking place in Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square and, of course, Chinatown.
Festivities on the 29th will begin at 10am with the return of the annual Chinese New Year parade.
Visitors arriving on flights to London can catch the vibrant and cacophonous parade passing through the heart of Central London via Chinatown, Shaftesbury Avenue, Charing Cross Road and Rupert Street toward its final midday destination of Trafalgar Square.
At noon, the official opening ceremony at Trafalgar Square will kick off with speeches from guests such as Mayor of London, Boris Johnson and the Chinese Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Liu Xiaoming. After the speeches (which are usually brief), revellers are treated to free dancing, music and other performances live from the Trafalgar Square stage all day until 6 pm.
A second stage set up at Shaftesbury Avenue will also offer free entertainment with performances from local community groups and schools from noon until 6pm. During the entire afternoon, lion dancers will parade throughout Chinatown where a range of stalls will sell traditional Chinese food and produce.
London’s Chinese New Year traditions always prove to be incredibly popular. Last year more than 300,000 people participated in the event. Anyone keen to secure a good view along the parade route, especially families with small children, would be wise to find their roadside position as early as possible. By 9.30 am, the streets will be packed with observers lined along the street two and three people deep.
As you might imagine, Chinatown’s famed restaurants will fill up quickly on the 29th. Grabbing a meal here during the New Year festivities is a delicious way to experience London’s unique blend of local and global culture firsthand. If you’re hoping dine in this, it would be a very good idea go ahead and try to make a reservation. Otherwise, if you attempt to get to a restaurant right at or just before noon you might do alright as many people will still be at Trafalgar Square for the opening ceremony. For a list of some of Chinatown’s best restaurants, check out our “Best of the Best: Chinatown, London” blog post.
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