England Welcomes In The Year Of The Snake: Chinese New Year Celebrations

Chinese New Year in England brings an explosive celebration of color and noise to this green and pleasant land. Tomorrow the nation’s Chinatowns will fill with spectators to watch the music and pageantry of the occasion, including Chinese dancing dragons and brightly colored New Year lanterns adorning the streets. A person born in the year of the snake is said to be the wisest and most enigmatic of all. Here are some of the best spots to see in Year of the Snake

London

Each year, London holds the biggest Chinese New Year celebrations outside Asia. The city’s celebrations are centered in the West End. See performances from Chinese artists in Trafalgar Square and explore the richly decorated Chinatown. Enter through the red gates and discover a brilliant red and gold pocket of Chinese food, music, architecture, and shopping. Strung with banners and lanterns, Chinatown for many generations has been home to a Chinese community who’ve turned the area into a hotspot for authentic cuisine. You’ll find specialty duck restaurants, delicious dim sum, and traditional Chinese pastries at the Kowloon Bakery. You’ll also find some of the best Chinese food in London at Hakkasan (www.hakkasan.com), a Michelin starred restaurant in nearby Bloomsbury. For more information, visit www.chinatownlondon.org

Birmingham

Birmingham’s Chinese New Year celebrations will take place from 12.30pm to 5.30pm in the Arcadian Centre in the city’s Chinese Quarter and promise to be bigger and better than ever. The celebrations will start with a bang, with an extravagant dragon and lion dance. Acrobatic and cultural displays will fill the rest of the programme, which will conclude with a spectacular Firework Finale. A wander around Birmingham’s Chinese Quarter will reveal a myriad of restaurants and cafés offering authentic menus from Northern China all the way to Malaysia, with some of the city’s hippest nightspots in between. If you feel like dancing after your dinner, the area offers funky house, electro, and some fun-filled karaoke. For more information, visit www.cnybirmingham.org.uk

Liverpool

Liverpool has one of the oldest established Chinese communities in Europe since a line of steamers connected the city directly to China, trading tea, silk and cotton wool. Today, there are around 10,000 Chinese residents living in Liverpool and its surrounding areas. Here, Chinese New Year is celebrated in style and the city features a spectacular ceremonial arch — the largest outside of Asia — which is decorated with over 200 dragons to commemorate the city being twinned with Shanghai. Celebrations take place from 11 am to 4 pm in the Liverpool Chinatown area including Nelson Street, Berry Street, Great George Street, Great George Square and Bold Street. For more information, visit www.liverpoolchinatown.co.uk. Just an hour away, Manchester is home to the Chinese Arts Centre (www.chinese-arts-centre.org), an institution which promotes Chinese contemporary art in Britain. It’s a fantastic space which holds a lively programme of exhibitions, events, residencies, and festivals, and is the place to go if you’re interested in the Chinese art and artists of today.

Newcastle Gateshead

2013 will see the return of one of the biggest celebrations of its kind in the North of England, as NewcastleGateshead welcomes in the Chinese New Year. The Year of the Snake will commence with a day of free events and performances for all the family, including traditional crafts, dance, music, martial arts and food and drink, with festivities commencing around Newcastle’s Stowell Street and Chinatown from 11 am to 5 pm. There’ll be a unique opportunity to witness the ceremonial ‘Eye Dotting’ of the new lion. This tradition brings the year’s beast (a traditional costume) to life by adding color to its eyes, giving it sight, taste and power, and awakening its spirit while bringing good luck and plentiful fortune to all who take part. Once ‘awake’, the lion performs a colorful street dance alongside the Chinese dragon and unicorn. The captivating ceremony will take place beneath the ornate ceremonial arch at the entrance to Chinatown. For more information, visit www.NewcastleGateshead.com/ChineseNewYear

Bristol

For a Chinese New Year with a twist, visit Bristol Zoo Gardens (www.bristolzoo.org.uk) and learn more about snakes in their special year. The zoo’s reptile house is home to some of the fastest, biggest and most venomous snakes on earth. Housing over 400 species and nine animals houses under cover, this is a great day out in Bristol whatever the weather. Combine your trip with a visit to Wai Yee Hong (www.waiyeehong.com), the place to usher in the Chinese New Year in Bristol. The firecrackers will be lit at 11.15am to scare away the evil spirits. This will be followed by a kung fu demonstration from the Yi Quin lion dance troupe, who will bring luck and prosperity through a traditional Chinese Lion dance.

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