Eastern Promise

TOAST's Pick of the best Chinese New Year celebrations across the UK

As Chinese New Year kicks off on Saturday, Toast rounds up the best celebrations around the UK.

Happy New Year! No, we didn’t miss the memo that 2016 is no more – we’re talking about Chinese New Year, which begins Saturday 28th January. Marked by the lunisolar Chinese calendar, the new year, also known as the Spring Festival, is a moveable feast, characterised by one of 12 animals that appear in the Chinese zodiac. This is the Year of the Rooster and sorry to break it to all you winged things out there but, according to Chinese astrology, the year of your sign is considered one of the unluckiest of your life. 

But at least your annus horribilis will kick off with one hell of a party. In Asia, the festivities last two weeks and there are also a number of fun-filled events taking place in the UK over the next fortnight. A must-see for Londoners is the Magical Lantern Festival (MLF), a captivating installation of life-size and giant lanterns in a variety of forms, from animals to buildings. The perfectly manicured gardens of Chiswick House are a suitably grand setting for this visual treat, now in its second year in the capital. 

Held on the final day of Chinese New Year, the lantern festival dates back 2,000 years to the Han Dynasty, says MLF’s creative director, Ian Xiang. “Almost half the world’s population celebrates this festival. It represents letting go of the past and the coming of spring. The lanterns are red to symbolise good fortune.” 

A less auspicious start to 2017, however, is washing your hair – one of a number of supposedly unlucky activities to be avoided on the first day of the Chinese New Year. In the Chinese language, hair has the same pronunciation as ‘fa’ in facai, which means “to become wealthy”. Shampoo your locks, and prepare to wash away your riches. Other taboos include taking medicine, eating porridge and doing the laundry.

Luckily, there are more thrilling pursuits on offer this weekend. TOAST has rounded up the best of them…


There’s no shortage of celebrations in the capital. As well as the Magical Lantern Festival, check out the dumpling masterclass on the 26th January at popular Islington restaurant Chinese Laundry. You’ll learn how to make the traditional snacks before sitting down to dinner with a cocktail or shot of Baiju.

Over at Haggerston’s TATA Eatery, Zijun Meng and Ana Goncalves will mark their first Chinese New Year in residence by teaming up with fellow chefs on a nine-course feast. Moreish dishes will include Ma Po suckling pig brain and king prawn dumplings.

Chinese Laundry Dumplings

On the 11th February, take the kids to the V&A Museum of Childhood for free drop-in workshops in Chinese opera mask making and calligraphy, while music lovers should head to the Barbican on the 7th February for the Grand Chinese New Year Concert. 

But the biggest celebration takes place on Sunday 29th January with the grand parade from Trafalgar Square to Chinatown. From 10am, there’ll be performances ranging from acrobatics to comedy, plus a host of dining options.

Chinese Lantern Festival 448A6716


The city has a four-day extravaganza planned from 26-29th January. Highlights include the Dragon Parade and fireworks display in Chinatown, from 12-6pm on the 29th, live music and a street food market in St Ann’s Square between 11am and 7pm, and the Travelling Light Circus, which takes to the streets on Friday and Saturday. The world-famous installation, the Lanterns of the Terracotta Warriors, will also be on display in Exchange Square daily, from 10am-9pm.



Stowell Street, also known as Newcastle’s Chinatown, is where the action is on the 29th January, with free events, food, music and performances. There’ll also be a fairground around Bath Lane and Thornton Square and a workshop at Newcastle Arts Centre on Saturday 28th, where you can learn the art of Chinese paper cutting and couplet writing.


The Chinese Society of Leeds University Union will be giving Chinese students and those who want to learn more about the traditions and culture of China, a cahcne to get into the spirit of Chinese New Year by hosting their very own Chinese Game Day on Thursday 26th January 2017, with a series of traditional games to play, including mahjong and Chinese chess.


To mark this year's milestone, Birmingham City Centre will be running a day of family-friendly festivities staged in Birmingham's Chinese Quarter on Sunday, January 29, from 11am until 4pm.

Events will include lion dances, a fire act, swinging acrobatics, oriental street food, traditional lantern making and funfair rides. There will also be a series of free family workshops at the Hippodrome and you can find all about when they'll be held here too, and details of those you need to book in for early on.

Chinese New Year Parade AD

Chinese New Year 08 AD

So here's wishing you all a "Kung Hey Fat Choi!" - Happy New Year!

Keen to host your own Chinese New Year celebrations? Treat your guests to TATA Eatery’s delicious Char siu pork rice bowl…recipe over on TheEdit