In Depth

Chinese New Year 2019: how to celebrate across the UK

Ring in the Year of the Pig with colourful events in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and Edinburgh

Chinese New Year is fast approaching, when millions of people across the world will come together to celebrate the most important date in the Chinese calendar.

The festivities kick off on 5 February ­– the day of the second new moon of the winter solstice – signalling the start of 15 days of parades, parties and food.

2019 marks the Year of the Pig, the twelfth of the zodiac animals. The Chinese zodiac, or shengxiao, is a repeating cycle of 12 years, each with an animal associated with certain characteristics.

Those born under the sign of the Pig are said to avoid “wasteful” spending but will still “let themselves enjoy life”, ChineseNewYear.net says.

“They are energetic and are always enthusiastic, even for boring jobs. If given the chance, they will take positions of power and status,” the site adds.

There’s ample opportunity to ring in the changes and take part in some time-honoured customs, from family orientated festive feasts promising dishes of delicious dumplings and tempting taro cakes to colourful street celebrations that will see cities across the UK lit up in vibrant red and gold. Here are some of the best places to visit to mark the occasion in style.

London

In 2019, the main London celebrations are taking place on Sunday 10 February.

The capital’s annual event typically attracts around 700,000 people - making it the biggest outside of Asia, and this year will be no exception. Organised by the London Chinatown Chinese Association, the festivities will centre on a main parade, with abundant music, dance and eye-catching costumes, which will snake from Charing Cross Road through the streets of Chinatown to the West End. Stages in Trafalgar Square will host a range of live performances, while the surrounding area will be filled with all manner of craft workshops, martial-arts displays and food stalls.

Eating and drinking is a major theme throughout the celebrations, and whether you fancy street-food snacks or high-end Cantonese cuisine, there is no shortage of options in the area.

If you have kids in tow, “you can entertain them with calligraphy workshops, dressing up and performances in the Leicester Square family zone before heading back to Trafalgar Square for the closing pyrotechnics display”, says Time Out

For adults, get into the spirit with Baijiu Cocktail Week, entering its fourth year in 2019. Why not try out some tipples based on this grain-based Chinese alcohol packed with sweet and citrusy notes, commonly known as Chinese firewater?

The Chinese New Year parade starts on Charing Cross Road at 10am on Sunday 10 February; chinatown.co.uk

Manchester

Manchester holds one of the biggest new year’s celebrations in the country, with a three-day event including a city centre parade, street food and art exhibitions.

On Sunday 10 February, the city’s popular Dragon Parade will weave its way from Manchester Town Hall to Chinatown, headed up by a spectacular 175-foot dragon and a lively band of dancers, drummers and performers following in its wake. As darkness falls, the streets will be filled with thousands of traditional red lanterns, while landmark buildings including department stores House of Fraser, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges will turn their exteriors red. Until then revellers can get in the celebratory mood by sampling authentic Chinese street food at the market in St Ann’s Square.

Manchester Arndale centre will also be running a range of family friendly activities and Chinese workshops, run by the Confucius Institute and Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art.

The Dragon Parade starts at Albert Square outside Manchester Town Hall at 12pm on Sunday 10 February; visitmanchester.com

Liverpool

Merseyside will see in the new year in style, with three days of events from Friday 8 February to Sunday 10 February, also marking the 20th anniversary of Liverpool’s twinning with Shanghai.

From 7pm on the 8 and 9 February, there will be “lion dancing and Chinese influenced street theatre” in and around the Chinese Arch, which was given to the city as a gift from its twin city. This will build up to a unique projection and pyrotechnic show at the arch, and on surrounding buildings called “The Quest for the Arch”, with a soundtrack by musician and composer Jah Wobble. It will end at around 7.45pm.

On the Sunday, around 25,000 people are expected to descend on the city centre for stage performances, family workshops, a fairground, parades, firecracker displays and a Chinese market on George Street.

The celebrations will take place from Friday 8 to Sunday 10 February in Chinatown; cultureliverpool.co.uk

Birmingham

The 17th annual Chinese New Year celebrations, staged in Birmingham’s Chinese Quarter, is set to attract around 30,000 people looking to soak up the action, the Birmingham Mail says. 

This year’s celebrations, centred around the Arcadian centre in Hurst Street, will take place on Sunday February 10 and will feature authentic lion dancing, a fire act, acrobatics, street food, traditional lantern making and funfair rides.

The Mail adds that celebrations will also take place on Colmore Row and at St Phillips Cathedral.

The Birmingham Chinese New Year parade will kick off in Chinatown from 11.30am on Sunday 10 February.

Edinburgh

The Scottish capital is to host its first ever official Chinese New Year festival this month as part of a drive to promote the city as one of “Europe’s premiere China-friendly destinations”.

The programme will showcase events at the Usher Hall, National Museum of Scotland, Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh and Edinburgh Zoo from 2 to 17 February.

In a bid to raise awareness and understanding of Chinese culture, “key buildings across the city will be lit up red to mark the festivities, special discounts will be offered and Chinese New Year window displays will be created”, The Scotsman says.

The Shanghai Theatre Academy Performance Group will perform a selection of beautiful and dynamic dances from their current UK tour at the National Museum of Scotland on 16 February, while the National Museum is offering free paper lantern workshops, knot-tying and calligraphy classes on 14 February.

Edinburgh Zoo’s Giant Lanterns of China experience also allows visitors to escape into a world of Scottish myths and ancient Chinese legends on a trail of 450 hand-crafted lanterns.

Newcastle

This year in Tyne and Wear, Chinese New Year celebrations will be centred around wishes of goodwill and prosperity.

Shoppers in Newcastle will be in for something of a treat if they pop into the historic Grainger Market this weekend “as a Chinese dragon and a lion will be vying for attention among the stall-holders”, says The Newcastle Chronicle.

The market in the North-East city centre will again be playing host to an eye-catching celebration for Chinese New Year with performances set to take place around the market’s numerous alleys in the afternoon. 

As well as playing a major role in organising the event, regular market favourite the Chinese food stall Dumpling and Bun will be hosting traditional crafts from the morning and inviting passers-by to try their hand.

On Sunday 10 February, Chinese New Year celebrations will again incorporate a colourful and awe-inspiring Dragon Dance and Lion Dance by The Chinese Festivity Group. The purpose of the dances are to bring the traditional good luck and at the same time scare away evil spirits for the year ahead.

The Dragon Dance, “which is intended to bring luck as part of festivities, is always a spectacular sight”, says the Chronicle. The dragon, whose weaving movements are controlled by a team of performers and dancers beneath its long body, “is intended to bring good luck and its appearance is fearsome and benign at the same time”, adds the paper.

The dances will begin at Old Eldon Square green at roughly 11.15am, before parading to the Chinese Arch in Stowell Street. The parade should arrive in Stowell Street for around 12 noon.

Isle of Wight

Just a short hop from the mainland on the Isle of Wight, Robin Hill Country Park is preparing to transform into Spirit of the Orient, one of the largest celebrations of the new year festival anywhere in the country.

Between 15 and 23 February, a “dazzling fusion of sound, colour, illuminations and oriental flavours will mark this global event amid ancient, 88-acre woodlands”, according to the event’s website.

The show will feature light exhibits, a 12-metre long dragon parade, and interactive shows.

But the highlight looks set to be the choreographed dancing, involving four white lion performers accompanied by a 50-strong pride of digital lions, plus a pyrotechnics show – a festival well worth the trip over the Solent.

Recommended

Chinese protests, supersonic jets and university cheats
A housing complex by Evergrande
Podcasts

Chinese protests, supersonic jets and university cheats

31 of the best novels so far this year
Paperback books for sale at a market stall
In Focus

31 of the best novels so far this year

30 of the best movies so far this year
Daniel Kaluuya plays a rancher dealing with the arrival of a UFO in Nope
In Focus

30 of the best movies so far this year

Russian visas, Arab fattism and quiet quitting
Landing plane
Podcasts

Russian visas, Arab fattism and quiet quitting

Popular articles

Is World War Three on the cards?
Ukrainian soldiers patrol on the frontline in Zolote, Ukraine
In Depth

Is World War Three on the cards?

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 19 August 2022
10 Downing Street
Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 19 August 2022

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 17 August 2022
10 Downing Street
Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 17 August 2022

The Week Footer Banner