Welcome in the Year of the Dog on the Chinese calendar. This year, Friday 16, February, kicks off the New Year celebrations (which continues for around two weeks). The Chinese calendar runs lunisolar – as such, the date changes each year for most people. And in London you’ll find one of the biggest celebrations outside of China annually. So here’s our guide to how and where to get in the mood.
Follow the Chinese New Year parade
Sunday, February 18, from 10 a.m.
Make your way to Central London for the largest collection of Chinese lion and dragon performers outside of China. The annual float parade kicks off around 10 a.m. from Charing Cross Road and will snake its way down to Shaftesbury Avenue. The theme is celebrating the Golden Era of U.K.-China relations so expect plenty of friendliness. This parade is the largest Chinese New Year parade outside of Asia and is free to spectate, so be sure to plan your route in advance.
Chinatown will come alive with performers | © dconvertini / Flikr
Watch the Flying Lion Dance
Sunday, February 18, from 10 a.m.
Trafalgar Square will host a whole afternoon of Chinese traditional celebrations, including acrobatics, puppets, firecrackers, dancing lions, drumming and a “thanksgiving” ceremony. The Flying Lion Dance is thought to scare away evil spirits and bring plenty of good luck and fortune to all of those that lay eyes upon it. These lion dances aren’t to be confused with dragons, they are much small and only have four legs with two people inside.
Take in a twist on the traditional Chinese lantern at Yauatcha
If you want to experience something a little different whilst eating some quality food, then head over to Yauatcha to witness their innovative Chinese lantern art installations. Two leading London artists, Lydia Kasumi Shireff and Jamie Julien Brown, have made the restaurant into a truly global celebration with their lanterns for the Year of the Dog. The Chinese New Year menu has plenty of dishes inspired by the annual celebration and features ingredients traditionally believed to bring good fortune. Make sure you try the Chilean sea bass roll to symbolise financial prosperity for the rest of the Chinese year.
Catch special West End shows
Sunday, February 18 from 12 p.m.
Around the West End, you can find special outdoor stages hosting music and performances, workshops and activities from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. You will be able to watch new stars on the New Talent stage in the community zone; see incredible tai chi chuan and taekwondo displays at the martial arts and cultural zone at Shaftesbury Avenue; and be sure to check out the family zone in Leicester Square, where you can learn the ancient art of calligraphy, dress up in traditional clothing and learn plenty about the Chinese culture.
Dig into Chinese Delicacies and Dance
Friday, February 16 – Sunday, February 18
London’s largest Asian foodhall, Bang Bang Oriental, will be hosting an evening of celebrations for Chinese New Year. The celebrations are free to enter with performances from 7 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. Guests will be able to experience a traditional lion dance, Wing Chun performance, Biàn Liǎn performance, Chinese music, and the Chopstick Challenge. There will also be a Chinese New Year Market which will be offering a selection of souvenirs to commemorate the start of the Year of the Dog, including lucky charms, lucky dog plush toy and handmade jewellery.
Find your Fortune and Luck at Westfield Stratford City
Thursday, February 15 – Sunday, February 18 from 12 p.m.
Westfield will be offering a selection of free adult and children workshops over the Chinese New Year, which includes Money Tree Plant Plotting, Red envelope decorating, Chinese calligraphy, Meditation and Tea Blending Workshops. These workshops are there to help you explore the themes of good food, good family times, good looks, good living and good health for the Year of the Dog in 2018. Some of the classes are adults-only so be sure to check their timetable first.
Check your Red Envelope at Royal China
Friday, February 16
To celebrate the occasion, Royal China Restaurants across London will give each table a special red envelope, with some of the envelopes within each restaurant revealing a special gift. Each “lei see,” as they are pronounced in Cantonese, will offer a fortune message — some of the red envelopes will contain a prize. The special prizes include a voucher for a complimentary meal up to the value of £100, a bottle of Champagne and a complimentary glass of wine.