The 2015 Chinese New Year aka the Spring Festival in London was, as always, a riotous kaleidoscope of colourful parades, amazing costumes, traditional drumming, dragon and lion dancing; fabulous acrobatics that take your breath away and leave you cheering for the daring escapades of the extraordinary lion!!
The festival starts with a parade through the streets of the West End; from Trafalgar Square along Charing Cross Road, past China Town finishing on Shaftesbury Road in Soho.
At the head of the parade is the Chinese God of Wealth aka the Money God followed by the Dragon dancing (a form of traditional dance and performance in Chinese culture), the dancing Lion (most often seen in festive celebrations) prances and dances through the crowds accompanied by drumming,
cymbals and cheers from the crowds, characters from Chinese legends in traditional dress,
colourful floats, weird animal characters representing the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac, while various dancers and singers bring up the rear of the parade!
2015 is the Year of the Goat or Sheep.
After the parade the crowds surge towards Trafalgar Square for the Opening Ceremony that starts with firecrackers at precisely 12 noon.
Firecrackers are used to signify the start of the new year and drive away evil spirits. After this there are the speeches (usually 30 minutes), the Dotting Eye Ceremony after which we get to see
the fabulous acrobatic Flying Lion Dance; by far and away the best performance – a feat of agility, strength, balance and timing…simply breath-taking!!
and then the magical Dragon Dance. This is followed with variety performances; singers, dance troupes and martial arts performances. The finale at 5:45pm is usually an extravaganza of martial arts, opera and pop sounds from the Voice of China.
Fortunately this year the rain held out till after the dragon dances!!
Trafalgar Square and surrounding streets are lined with gift and food stalls and this event, the 7th such festival in London, drew huge crowds, a mix of London’s diverse cultures.
The Dragon dance is often performed on auspicious occasions, especially during the Chinese New Year. A team of experienced and well-practised dancers manipulate a long and fragile, colourful flexible figure of a dragon using poles positioned at regular intervals along the length of the dragon that mimics the movements of the river spirit in a sinuous, undulating manner.
Chinese dragons, a symbol of China, are believed to possess qualities that include great power, dignity, fertility, wisdom and auspiciousness to bring good luck to people and the community; the longer the dragon in the dance, the more luck it will bring, it wards off evil spirits and welcomes good fortune. The movements traditionally symbolize power and dignity.
Colours are used to symbolize different aspects of the spring festival: green symbolizes a great harvest, red represents excitement while yellow symbolizes the solemn empire, and golden or silver colours symbolize prosperity, while the scales and tail are mostly beautiful glittering silver colours which provides a feeling of a joyous atmosphere.
Performed during the Spring festival street celebrations to pray for good luck, the lion believed to be an auspicious animal that brings good luck.
The Lion dance, a Chinese folk art, is performed during the Chinese New Year and other Chinese traditional, cultural and religious festivals. The ‘lion’ is usually two dancers with one acting as the head and the other the body, who dance to a drum, cymbals and a gong, while on the head of the lion is mirror so that evil spirits will be frightened away by their own reflections.
Chinese New Year will always fall between January 21 and February 21, with the first rule of thumb to calculate the date being that the Chinese New Year should be the new moon closest to the beginning of spring (in the northern hemisphere), known as Lìchin.
I had a wonderful day, the Chinese New Year festival is one of my favourite annual events in London, and as I was born in the Year of the Sheep, this year was a particularly special. I was also on assignment for Mustard PR to capture the fun, the excitement and the enjoyment of the crowds for a project they are working on.
In all a fabulous event on the London 2015 calendar.
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