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Eight geotag journalists exploring your city. This week: Creative London.

Chinese New Year London style

By Xudong Zeng

Firecrackers to ward off the evil spirits, traditional Chinese songs welcoming the New Year followed by dragon show and the lion dance- welcome to China, in the heart of London- Trafalgar Square.

Every year to mark the Chinese New Year in accordance with the lunar calendar, London gears up for revelry and February 3, this year was no different.

Trafalgar Square was jammed with enthusiasts waiting for the celebration to start.

Just Joy

“We are enjoying it to the hilt. The festival definitely belongs to London as everything is so diverse here. It’s a great learning experience to pick up a thing or two about the Chinese culture,” said couple Colette Bell and Andy Healey, from Surrey who were celebrating their first Chinese new year in London.

The Spring Festival is one of the many multi-cultural traditions thriving in the cosmopolitan capital of the world and is the biggest celebration outside China.

Xiaoxin Du from Beijing, Master student at the University of Nottingham asserts: “The celebrations are quite similar to the ones back home. It is very important that we get the chance to share the culture at an international stage in central London.”

The feeling is that the Chinese culture is not exclusive to the community but over the years has become part of London itself.

Some primary schools even asked their pupils to come to the festival with families, take pictures, and write a journal about it.

With performances like lion dancing requiring two people to share the costume and sync flawlessly staying six feet above the ground, there was enough to write and share.

The myth

For the Chinese people these celebrations symbolise hope and life for all living beings.

According to Chinese myths, there lived a monster named “Nian” who came down from the mountain in winters and attacked people in the villages.

People were told that the monster was afraid of the colour red and big noises. They came up with an idea, to scare Nian. They put up some red papers on their doors and started to set up fireworks at the sight of the monster.

The ploy worked. Immediately, the monster ran away and never came back.

Since then, people made it a tradition to put up red papers and set firecrackers when winter was about to end.

Chinese zodiac

The Sheng Xiao (according to Chinese pronunciation), better known as the Chinese Zodiac, relates each year to an animal and its reputed attributes in a 12-year cycle. 2011 is the Year of Rabbit.

The 12 Chinese animal signs are rat, bull, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and hog.

Even as China takes strides in the 21st century as the elderly people still have the habit of asking each other’s animal signs instead of their ages. The tradition of matching prospective couple’s zodiac signs too is prevalent in some parts of China.

Festival beyond boundaries

As the tradition crosses national boundaries sceptics argue that the Chinese New Year has gradually lost its significance in China compared to some western celebrations like the Christmas and Valentine’s Day.

This view seems to be single sided.

What the sceptics don’t get to see the gusto with which westerns celebrate the Chinese New Year.

“We are here with our boys to show them and celebrate the Chinese New Year. We are having a great time. The celebrations are an integrate part of London. It is important for everybody in terms of learning about different cultures,” says Joanna Oxley who came with her family from Guildford to be a part of the extravaganza.

So shed the inhibitions and feel the pulse.
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