Chinese New Year Traditions and Celebrations in London

It’s the Year of the Horse on 31 Jan 2014 and celebration goes on for 15 days until the next full moon. What does this mean for you? You can read you Chinese horoscope here.

Chinese New Year Year of the Horse

Chinese New Year Traditions

A lot of the traditions are based on superstition and myth. Through the years, this has all evolved to common practices that people follow blindly as that is the way it has always been done. The 15th day or Chap Goh Meh is the most important day for the Hokkien people and for the Cantonese, it’s the 7th day or Yan Yat, which is everybody’s birthday.

Chinese families usually prepare for Chinese New Year with a very thorough house cleaning. On the first day of new year, no cleaning or sweeping is allowed as this is deemed bad luck, you don’t want to sweep all your luck away. This follows decorating their homes with auspicious symbols, flowers and new soft furnishings. Red and gold are the auspicious colours. The bolder the better.

Other traditions : you are not supposed to cut or wash your hair, cut your nails, pluck your eyebrows or anything of the sort. Something to do with bad luck again.

In Malaysia, we would visit family on the first day of New Year and lots of people have “Open House” where you just drop in for a visit, bring some gifts, grab a bite, have a few drinks and sometimes gamble a bit. There are usually quite a few open houses around town and you need to work your way around all of them, especially if they are business contacts. This goes on for the first 2-3 days of the New Year.

Kids love the New Year as married couples have to give kids lucky red packets full of cash.

You are also supposed to place a bet on something or gamble to open your luck for the year so head to the nearest bookies or get out the mahjong set.

Chinese New Year Celebrations in London

On Sunday 2 Feb 2014, Trafalgar Square will be the centre of the celebrations where there will be dancing, singing, lion dances and fireworks. All around Chinatown, the local businesses will be hosting their own events along Gerard Street, Wardour Street and Shaftesbury Avenue. Watch out for the guys in dressed in God of Prosperity costumes handing out money.

You will find Lion and dragon dances accompanied by loud drums (and sometimes firecrackers) will be featured both in Trafalgar Square and at restaurants and businesses around Chinatown as it supposed to scare away the evil spirits and brings good luck. These are usually performed by kung fu troupes trained in acrobatics and special kung fu moves. The Royal China Restaurants will have Lion Dances at several of their branches over the New Year period.

Chinese New Year Food

The most important event is the reunion dinner on the eve of Chinese New Year where the whole family gathers for a slap up meal. All the New Year dishes have auspicious names and everything has a significance like you have to have a prawn dish as it’s called “ha” in Cantonese and sounds like laughter. All animals are served whole like a whole steamed fish (heads and tails intact) or a whole suckling pig, as it means unity.

In some parts of China, the tradition if to make Jiaozi dumplings as the shape resembles gold ingots and is a symbol of wealth and prosperity. A special gooey new year cake made of rice flour is usually served at new year as the myth goes that the sticky cake will prevent the Kitchen God from reporting any misdeeds to the Jade Emperor.


  1. Comprehensive stuff!

    We usually have dumplings but also tang yuan. And in China we used to have fireworks as well.

    • London Food Blogger says:

      We have tang yuan for breakfast on the 1st morning and you usually hear the sound of firecrackers all through town in the first few days of the new year too.

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