Chinese New Year is a Chinese festival which marks the start of a New Year according to the traditional Chinese calendar – and it is a big deal in London too. The festival is known as the Spring Festival in China, though taking place over Winter in the UK.
So book yourself into The Devonshire Paddington this coming 25 January 2020 and prepare to celebrate the year of the pig in true London style.
Every year of the Chinese calendar is attributed to one of the twelve horoscopes, which are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. Last year was The Year of the Pig, which in the Chinese zodiac represents luck, overall good fortune as well as wealth and honesty. That means that 2020 will be the Year of the Rat, which represents vitality and survival. So, your celebrations will be towards a year of strength – something everyone needs right now.
Year-round, Chinatown is a prime location for food in the city and any London hotel deal which involves being walking distance from Soho is one you want to be latching onto. So it goes without saying that over Chinese New Year, Chinatown is exactly where you want to be. Even without knowing what is on or where to go, you will find success just by wandering the lantern-lit roads. But here are some specific things to look out for this year.
Baozilnn is your port of call if you are some of the city’s finest northern Chinese street food, with traditional Sichuanese decor. But this is London, after all, so you can expect a bit of a Westernised, modern flair thrown into the mix. To celebrate last year, the Year of the Pig, which symbolises prosperity and luck, BaoziInn have whipped up a special dish to celebrate that called the Lucky Red Lantern Xiao Long Bao, pork and crab meat soup dumplings in a spicy chilli dough. So you can be very excited about what they have in store for 2020.
Imperial China gives you the whole experience, not just outstanding Chinese food. There is a little wooden bridge which you cross on arrival, arching over an ornamental fish pond. Once seated, your menu options may seem overwhelming in the sense that you are going to want to try a bit of everything. The good news on that front is that the dishes are relatively small, and so ordering a few is strongly encouraged. This three-storey banqueting extravaganza is a worthy way to spend your Chinese New Year.
Shu Xiangge is a hot-spot with a hot-pot. Built into every table is the famous Sichuan hot pot, bubbling away with delectable broth ready to cook your food. This is one of the most authentic places you will find in London, with no Westernised twists on anything – those who want a traditional experience, brains and beef aorta included, ought to make their way to this restaurant for an adventurous culinary experience.
Though the food is a critical element of an authentic Chinese New Year, arguably the most fun and extravagant part are the parades – all including the iconic imagery which everyone has seen on TV at some stage: the dragons, lion dances, bright crimson colours and all-consuming jubilation.
Annually, hundreds of thousands of people make their way to London’s West End to either watch or take part in the parade. This always includes free stage performances and wishes of love and prosperity. The parades usually start on Shaftesbury Avenue and make their way north to Trafalgar Square. The main stage is at the end point of the parade, in Trafalgar Square. However, there are smaller stages all along the way to ensure the atmosphere is always alive and merry.
If you opt not to eat at one of the restaurants in Chinatown, then you will not go hungry once you reach the end of the parade. There are a number of street food stalls lining the square, so you can choose whatever smells the best on the day!
What to wear
There is no strict dress code for Chinese New Year if you are just a bystander, however, it is encouraged that you wear something red to respect the occasion. Ultimately, you will feel most comfortable in something bright and colourful. One recommendation you ought to take seriously, though, is that you wear comfortable shoes. It is all about the walking and the dancing and you don’t want aching feet when you get back – though if this is the case, the spa at The Devonshire Hotel will be able to fix that up quickly.
Not to mention, though it may be known as the Spring festival when in London, it very much takes place in the middle of Winter. January in London can be one of the coldest months of the year, so make sure you are dressed accordingly and wrapped up warmly, especially given that the majority of celebrations take place outside.
If you want to get involved with wishing your friends and family a Happy New Year, here are the two phrases you can learn: “Xin Nian Kuai Le” (Mandarin) or “San Nin Faai Lok” (Cantonese). Alternatively, you can wish people a prosperous rather than a happy new year, which are: “Gong Xi Fa Cai” (Mandarin) and “Gong Hei Fat Choi” (Cantonese).
Stay in the loop
Though this article ought to help you stay in the Chinese New Year loop in that it will point you in all the right directions, a great way to keep on top of what is happening live is by following the social media hashtag, #CNYLondon. This way, you can get an alert straight through to your phone from the comfort of your Paddington Court Rooms and make your way to whatever live update you receive.
London’s Chinese New Year celebrations are the biggest in the world outside of Asia – this really says something about how seriously the city takes the occasion and means it is absolutely unmissable. In the same way as Afternoon Tea in Paddington is an institution of luxurious living in London, Chinese New Year is an institution of cultural enrichment and testimony to what an epic party London can throw.