Compared to some of the world's capitals, London's Chinatown is a bit of a disappointment. It's fairly small, barely atmospheric and about as ethnic as a "Mind the Gap" t-shirt. This Sunday though, the small district will come alive with bursting colours, fireworks, crackers, music and plenty of food to go around. Welcome to the Year of the Ox !
The actual Chuxi, Chinese New Year, falls on January 26th this year, though
understandably postponed until Sunday. In that sense February 1st is actually PoWu,
"fifth day of the New Year",marked with the custom of starting the day with a filling meal of Jiaozi dumplings. Why not pay a visit to a local Chinese takeaway before heading off to really get into the mood for tradition?
The celebrations officially start at noon with iconic Lion and Dragon dances, and will presumably continue until the punters can no longer maintain vertical posture. Fortunately, the colourful displays and diverse range of ethnic performers will not be limited to Chinatown alone, and will include a variety of locations around London. The familiar red lanterns (symbolocally used to frighten away Niang, the New Year monster) and sounds of firecrackers are easy markers to follow, and will be seen in Trafalgar and Leicester squares, Shaftsbury Avenue and, of course, Chinatown.
Here, you can expect to be completely transported to the land of calligraphy, dragons, and chopsticks for one afternoon. With costumed performers wandering down the streets, vendors offering unusual and mysterious dishes and fireworks lighting up the crowds at 6pm in Leicester Square, it's easy to feel lost inthe midst of a parallel universe. No-one has yet managed to dig the proverbial hole to China, but if they had, the Chinese New year is what it would look like.