The Lunar New Year, also known as Spring Festival and Chinese New Year (春节), is the beginning of the new year on the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar and the celebration of the first of twenty-four solar terms. This year the celebration occurs on the 1st of February! The legend says that a monster named Nian (年 = “year”) used to attack villagers at the beginning of each lunar year. The villagers would use red decorations around the village, light up fireworks and firecrackers, dress in red, and do performances in the streets in order to protect themselves and scare away the monster! The celebrations end after 15 days with the Lantern Festival, which symbolizes letting go of the past year and embracing the opportunities of the new year filled with good luck! Based on Chinese traditions and superstitions, there are some dos and don’ts to help increase someone’s good fortune. A couple of examples are to dress in new red clothes, buy something new -maybe a lucky charm- in the colour red, avoid bad words and breaking something. You also have to avoid cleaning that day, as you will swap over your good luck. Instead, you need to do your chores in advance so the new year will find you with a clean house. The most important thing for you to remember is that this day is meant to be spent with good company and friends, so here are some suggestions to help you have a good time!
In London, celebrations usually happen in Chinatown, West End, Leicester Square, and Trafalgar Square with live performances, dances, fireworks, and many events. Despite the fact that this year these events are canceled, this does not mean that is not a good opportunity for you to celebrate the New Year one more time here! There are some events and workshops that you might wish to join. From tea tasting and Chinese woodblock printing to learning more about the Chinese traditions, you can explore different options available.
Of course, food cannot be missed from this occasion, with mouth-watering noodle soup being the main traditional dish of the day. The long noodles, which are accustomed to being eaten for five days, represent the long life. Some highly suggested places for you to visit are Lanzhou Lamian Noodle Bar, Phat Phuc Noodle Bar, Pho, and Canton Element. You can choose from rice, egg, or wheat noodles and combine them with vegetables, chicken, beef, shrimp, and/or eggs. Some well-known soups are spring noodle soup, pan mee, wanton mee (wonton noodles), and beef noodle soup. Spring rolls, dumplings, steamed fish, vegetable dishes, steamed chicken, and hot pot are also part of the New Year’s table.
Another very well-known Chinese meal that you might want to try due to this special occasion is dim sum. Dim sum - which can be translated as “touch the heart”- is a combination of different small plates of dumplings and other small dishes that you can accompany with tea. Usually, it is served during lunchtime but a lot of restaurants offer it throughout the day. Some basic dishes for you to order would be Shumai (siu mai, shao mai), shrimp dumplings (har gow, xia jiao), soup dumplings (xiaolong bao), BBQ pork buns (charsiu bao, chashao bao), rice noodle rolls (cheong fun, changfen), and steamed custard buns (nai wong bao). One of the best that you can find - a personal favorite as well- is at Gerlad’s Corner in Chinatown! There are other numerous restaurants nearby like Dumbling’s Legends, Four Seasons, Opium Cocktail and Dim Sum Parlour that also offer really good food!
Of course, desserts are not absent from New Year’s celebrations! Sesame seed balls, fortune cakes (Fa Gao), almond cookies, egg tarts, Taro balls, and -for those who want to be surprised from trying something new but soo tasty- sweet red bean mooncakes and red bean soup are the traditional choices of the day. This can be found again at one of the many bakeries in Chinatown, with the most well-known being the Chinatown Bakery.
Many of the restaurants might be packed during that day but you can always take away your lunch/dinner and enjoy it in one of London’s amazing spots. If you are feeling adventurous enough you can even choose to cook something for yourself! An easy noodle soup or chicken noodle soup, or frosted dim sum in one of the many Chinese supermarkets in Chinatown and all over London. However, you need to bear in mind that it might be best to buy everything you want in advance as some shops might be closed on the 1st of February. You are always welcome to ask for alternative options for food or restaurants at the front desk!
The Chinese New Year is another opportunity to remind you that everything that has happened belongs to the past and every day is a new start full of luck, amazing food, new people for you to meet, new friendships to make, and new possibilities! We hope that you have an amazing time and a happy Lunar New Year!