An amazing spectacle – Chinese New Year!
The festivities start today – the first day of the lunar month – and continue until the fifteenth, when the moon is brightest.
London will see the biggest celebrations outside Asia, as hundreds of thousands of people descend on the West End to mark the occasion. A colourful New Year’s Parade will pass through the city to Chinatown, with dragons, acrobats, dancers and singers. An official opening ceremony will take place tonight in Trafalgar Square.
In China, people traditionally spring clean their houses before the start of the festivities to sweep away any bad luck. On New Year’s Eve, all brooms and brushes are put in cupboards so that good luck cannot be swept away. Houses are decorated with paper garlands and scrolls with lucky phrases like ‘Happiness’ and ‘Wealth’.
On New Year’s Eve, families normally gather together for a festive meal. Depending on the part of China, they may enjoy djiaozi – a steamed dumpling – or in the south, nian gao – a sweet and sticky rice pudding.
Revellers will stay up until after midnight, setting off fireworks. The colour red is really important at New Year, as it symbolises fire, which will scare away evil spirits. People dress from head to toe in red clothing, red decorations are everywhere, and children are given red envelopes of ‘lucky’ money.
The new year ends with the lantern festival on the fifteenth day of the month. People hang glowing lanterns at the windows of their houses and carry lanterns under the light of the full moon. A dragon dance often takes places with a dragon made of paper, silk and bamboo.
We’ll be celebrating in a more low key way at Shimu, but we’re certainly looking forward to welcoming the year of the horse. More about that on the blog next week!