Monday, February 22, 2010

London Chinese New Year celebrations - the 8th day

"How was your weekend?" Ab asked me this morning.
"Was at Chinatown milling about," I replied.

I lied. While I was actually at Chinatown, I made the mistake of following the crowd to Gerrard Street and I was stuck there for the better part of an hour. I was certainly not milling about.

Sunday was the eighth day of the Chinese New Year. According to tradition, the Chinese celebrates their New Year for a full fifteen days (that's right, that's more than the entire Bank holidays in a year).

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Lanterns galore at London's Chinatown

I recall that as a kid, one of the highlights of the Chinese New Year celebration would be the lion dances. Various lion dance troupes would roam the town visiting businesses and did their gig outside shops whose owners would then pay them an agreed sum. For a bit more money, the lion dancers would actually dance their way into the shop premises, and that signifies an auspicious start to the new year.

To keep the competition at bay, some troupes would offer to predict the upcoming lottery numbers - a four digit combination. Most did it by forming the numbers using slices of mandarin oranges. Unsurprisingly, most combinations would come to naught and the bettors would simply shrugged their shoulders and rushed off to bet on the combinations displayed by the next lion dance. It was all good fun.

I guess when people relocated and move to a new land that is entirely foreign to them, they seek to bring along some part of their culture that reminded them of home. For some reason, I felt as if I was back to Singapore's Chinatown when I was surrounded by kids merrily tossing poppers onto the ground amid the crowds revelling in the lion dances.

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Street stalls lined Wardour Street, which was closed to traffic

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Ever wonder where the lanterns go after the celebrations? It never fails to mystify me.

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Getting into the festive mood, nice cap there!

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Lanterns lined up right to the edge of Chinatown

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The prominent police cordon - within themselves that is. Strange, shouldn't they be facing outside?

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That's the closest I got to the lion dancers

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Tired after all the excitement, she clutches to her dad and her dragon of course.

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3 comments:

xiaocangshu said...

I was at my grandmother's house on the first day of Chinese New Year when we heard the lion dancers at one of the neighbours' houses, so my dad and I went out to look. (Been years since I spontaneously went out of a house to investigate something.) The other neighbours and some of their guests had gone out to look too. Even got a couple of photos.

C K said...

@xiaocangshu,
Really? Was the lion dancers specially brought in by your grandma's neighbour or merely doing their rounds?

Hope you didn't suffer from indigestion from the feasting. Well, I know I would!

xiaocangshu said...

I think they were hired by the neighbours.

I was more worried about heatiness, so I drank a lot of water, juice and chrysanthemum tea.