Whether you say Gung Hay Fat Choi (Cantonese), Xīnnián kuàilè (Mandarin) or simply Happy New Year, one thing is for sure – there will be plenty of opportunities to get involved in Chinese New Year celebrations in Leicester.
The most auspicious time in the Chinese calendar began on Sunday with a procession through the streets from Jubilee Square to New Market Square, via High Street, the Clock Tower and Humberstone Gate.
This year is the Year of the Rat, and a giant rat symbol headed the parade, followed by a dragon, lions and people carrying placards featuring each of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. A traditional dragon dance, which symbolises good luck and prosperity. The longer the dragon, the more luck it is thought to bring to the community.
Mark Salter from Belgrave had brought his children Olivia, six and Jack, four, to see the celebrations. He said: “I love that we have this in Leicester. The children thought the dragon was amazing I think Jack thinks it’s magical!”
“We didn’t realise this was on,” said friends Ellie Jackson and Raj Patel, who stopped to watch the parade. “It’s really cool.”
The procession ended in New Market Square for a show including a professional lion dancing troupe, projected animation, a live DJ Guo Han from China and a fireworks display.
Sunday marked the start of nearly two weeks of events celebrating Chinese New Year, which is also known as Spring Festival or Lunar New Year. On Monday, an exhibition of Chinese art opens at Curve, featuring Chinese artists Sun Jiujiang and Wang Yu.
Sun depicts mountain and water landscapes, whilst Wang Yu creates scenes featuring birds and flowers and the exhibition opens to the public on January 28, running until February 6, 10am to 6pm.
And on Friday, LCB Depot is running its popular #LastFriday on the theme of the Year of the Rat, with art workshops, comedy and street food. You can find details of all events here.
On Saturday, February 1, New Walk Museum and Highcross will be running a day of free family activities which include a magician, puppets, acrobatics and lion dancing. Festivities come to an end on Friday, February 8 with celebrations in Humberstone Gate.
The events are being run by Cosmopolitan Arts, backed by BID Leicester, Arts Council England, Awards for All, De Montfort University’s Confucius Institute and Leicester City Council.
Amanda Leandro, of Cosmopolitan Arts, said: “This is Cosmopolitan Arts’ fourth year of doing Chinese New Year in Leicester.
“We would like to thank everyone for their help and support to help grow this annual programme of festivities for the Chinese community and students in Leicester. Sunday was the first two events of Chinese New Year 2020, we created beautiful artefacts and infrastructure for a very successful and beautiful procession around the city centre, which was well attended regardless of the weather.
“I am very proud of what we achieved not only for the Chinese community and students, but also for the whole of Leicester and I am looking forward to the next events.”
Zhiping Wei, of DMU’s Confucius Institute, which teaches Mandarin classes and Chinese Culture, said students and staff had been rehearsing since November for the dragon performance.
She said: “I think they did a great job. Even though the weather was not favourable, people here could experience some of the atmosphere and the traditions of the Spring Festival. It is a time for families to get together.
“I hope people in Leicester enjoyed our dragon dance and other performances and would like to join us in the coming Chinese New Year celebrations. The Confucius Institute at DMU is happy to share Chinese culture with local people. “
Master’s student Chuanpu Wang was part of the dragon dance. He said: “I am proud of everyone who has worked so hard to do this performance. We are happy that people were able to enjoy this traditional dance.”
Simon Jenner, BID Leicester director, said: “BID Leicester is pleased to be supporting this programme of events that celebrates the start of the Year of the Rat. Chinese New Year is a vibrant and colourful festival, further highlighting the diversity of our city. It is a fantastic opportunity for the people of Leicester to enjoy free, family events and learn more about Chinese culture.”
Posted on Monday 27th January 2020