“Have a happy New Year” isn’t something that you would normally expect to hear a week into February, but all throughout Trafalgar Square “xīn nián kuài lè”, the Chinese equivalent, rang out for the annual Chinese New Year celebrations in central London. Introducing our students to new and inspiring parts of our city is a part of Ingla School of English’s mission, and nothing is more inspiring than the ecstatic, colourful, and engaging festivals that people hold in their happiest moments.
We made our way, on a stormy and overcast Sunday, from our home base in Turnpike Lane to the heart of the Chinese New Year festivities. Trafalgar Square was already packed with revellers taking in an impressive, acrobatic exhibition of dancing, enjoying a wide variety of Chinese cuisine, and listening to inspiring speeches about the long, and robust bond cemented between China and the United Kingdom.
Inglans followed a dragon throughout the neighbourhood, winding and wending down every street in sight and stopping at every doorway (whether shop, restaurant, or house) to give them blessings for a prosperous New Year. On our meandering way we even came across a lion dance in which a lion drank a jug of wine and fell asleep, much to his dance partner’s chagrin.
Chinese New Year is full of joy and the kind of ancient traditions that you wouldn’t be able to see first-hand unless you were from that culture and place. It’s moments like these that make Inglans realise that living in a city like London is a pleasure and a privilege.
A sea of people swayed together to traditional Chinese music and stretched on tiptoes to get a better view of the stage and a chance to snap a photo on their mobiles.
Eventually, we found our way to Chinatown where the celebrations stepped down off the stage and onto street level.
Of course, we couldn’t leave Chinatown without introducing our students to a proper Chinese meal, so we finished our day at the New China Restaurant. Everyone left that day with a full belly and a new appreciation for the liveliness and cultural vibrancy of London.