The Cheer That Comes With The Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year celebrations in London are huge. They are, in fact, the biggest globally outside of China. The traditional celebratory spirit lifts the gloomy aura of London’s landscape into an iridescent parade. The carnival processions begin annually at Trafalgar Square and meander, throughout the day, into the depths of Leicester Square’s Chinatown. The parade begins at 10 am, followed by a Dragon and Lion Dance from 12 to 1pm. However, once the colourful dancers make their way into the streets of Chinatown, the Dragon ensemble proceeds to enter each establishment in order to bless the business for an upcoming year of prosperity.

There is an aesthetically pleasing quality to the ritualistic dance, as the Dragon dances rhythmically around the business before heading inside. Whilst this event is observed by the onlookers, their ears are soothed by the pleasant echo of the drums that animate the Dragon into action. Once on the inside, the Dragon proceeds to tear apart an overhanging batch of lettuce inside of which usually lies a monetary contribution. Thus, by receiving this contribution and by ripping the lettuce, the Dragon ensures the annual prosperity of the business via a quirky traditional dance that, initially, may jar with a Westerner’s expectations of New Year celebrations, but then one realises the whimsy and beauty of cultures that differ from our own.

A few other fascinating qualities associated with the Chinese New Year are its ornamental decorations and the array of restaurants littered across Chinatown. With regard to decorations, every year an abundance of colourful Chinese lanterns are hung all over Chinatown. This year, they were primarily yellow and red, however, in previous years there have been blue and purple ones. The vendors across Chinatown sell everything from toys and trinkets associated with the Chinese zodiac signs to fun snaps – something that can only be described as mini-bombs that when thrown on the ground explode, crackle and pop. Furthermore, the restaurants offer something for every palate; a hungry customer could order something ‘safe’ – a typical Chinese dish such as a chow mein or a rice/noodle dish- or, on the other hand, for the more adventurous, there are dishes such as duck tongues or snake soup. Are you brave enough?

2015 marks the beginning of the Year of the Sheep, and according to the Chinese Zodiac those born in the years headed by this symbol (in 1967, 1979, 1991 or 2003) are amicable, calm, gentle, thoughtful and persevering. Therefore, the Year of the Sheep seems to be dedicated to those with a favourable personality and, consequently, best suited to the following professions: paediatrician, actor, teacher, interior designer, musician and editor.

If you were born on the Year of the Sheep did the zodiac predictions guess your occupational aspirations as well as personality quirks? Or are you just that much more interesting and unpredictable than your sign suggests?

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