Chinese New Year is an annual fixture on our family calendar.
What’s not to like? It’s an excuse to travel in to London. Which means an opportunity to ride on tube trains and buses and to head to Chinatown for a dim sum lunch.
And, of course, there are the main festivities themselves. From stage shows in Trafalgar Square to the parade of dragons, drummers and carnival floats that wends its way up Charing Cross Road and along Shaftesbury Avenue, it’s a gaudy mix of colour and noise that never fails to entertain the children.
The crowds are huge in the whole area around Chinatown – it’s not the most baby buggy-friendly event to take a young one to, although it is possible with a lot of patience – as are the queues for the restaurants. Our kids’ favourite thing is to follow the lion dances as they go from establishment to establishment in Chinatown ‘plucking the greens’. This is a ritual in which the lion grabs a green vegetable such as a lettuce, usually suspended from a pole from an upstairs window, to which is tied a red envelope containing money. The lion spits out the vegetable and keeps the envelope, which is supposed to confer good fortune upon the business.
Other than food, we don’t do much during the rest of the year to tie the kids in to their Chinese heritage, so this is always a nice, gentle way to remind them of their background on my side of the family. And, despite some appalling customer (lack of) service from the restaurant we normally go to – and won’t be going back to again – we all had a good day. Although I rather suspect that the boys’ favourite part of the trip was being allowed to go to the Apple store at Westfield before heading home …