It's the year of the Rabbit and London celebrates it in style with a major event at the heart of London's Trafalgar Square and Chinatown. Thousands came by to welcome the Chinese New Year by watching traditional dancers and singers plus all sorts of acts from China.
It is absolutely rammed this year and in fact all the roads leading to Trafalgar Square have been cordoned off and people are being channeled to walk in certain directions just to keep the crowds moving, even if it is at a glorious snail’s pace, as they say it is not the getting there but the journey you take!
Well after managing to get into the square we did shuffle along with all the other thousands and the hope that I had of getting shots of anyone were going to be curtailed until I could get my arms above my head! Balloons, firecrackers, and small hand-held dragons were everywhere, the sound of small ceremonial drums and toys clacking filled the air occasionally punctuated with the sounds of announcers from the stage. The next act was up and people were craning their necks to see the stage, at the very least they would raise their cams to the sky and look at the back of them to see the digital display ( I suppose it is good for that at least!).
Trafalgar Square was filled with thousands of people staring at a large stage that held a number of acts and also displayed adverts from sponsors and control messages from the police, how very exciting! Not all the celebrations were held just here though and the New Year was going to be seen in at Chinatown obviously and as far up as Shaftesbury Avenue. People were carrying small bags that had either been purchased or even smaller ones that contained freebies.
I was actually surprised at the lack of Chinese stalls around the perimeter of the square, unlike when we celebrated the Russian Festival. I suppose most goods were to be found in Gerrard Street and Lisle Street. We moved onto these after a while as hunger was getting the better of us and for some bizarre reason the only food available was from a “finest burger” van! Shame really, the opportunity to sell good Chinese food there was missed. We walked up past the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery, which provided a grand backdrop to the event and made our way through Leicester Square and then up to Lisle Street, which sits parallel to the square and just north of it.
Lisle St. was also packed, a great atmosphere though as everyone was heading east to see the lion which was dancing around the shop fronts, as you got closer, it was definitely a case of point and shoot, sometimes you could see the head rear up as it changed direction, much to the delight of all the youngsters sitting atop shoulders.
Gerrard Street was amazing, bursting with colour and the lanterns were fantastic, all the restaurants were full and some (the best) had queues. We decided to join one of these and were taken to the very top of the building, unfortunately we lost our view of the street but the food was great and the company was also interesting as we were now eating with the staff, I think it was because there were five of us. The girls got a lot of attention as they were being watched whilst they used their chopsticks, which I hasten to add, they are good with!
To be in Chinatown when such a celebration is going on is a wonderful experience, filled with new things to see good humour, hope for the New Year, and a constant sound of firecrackers and snappers. It is now a regular event and no longer confined just to those streets, to find that the roads around Charing Cross and even Charing Cross Road and the part of the Strand were limited to pedestrians was brilliant but it certainly made you wonder how many people were there.
The event is free unless you choose to spend money and takes place around the nearest weekend to the New Year on the 3rd of February, the activities in Trafalgar Square started at 12pm-6pm but all other activities around Chinatown carried on, depending on where they were.