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Get involved in London's Chinese New Year celebrations next month

Published: Friday 7th of January 2011

Although everyone is just getting back into the swing of things following the Christmas and New Year celebrations in the UK, there is another party just around the corner to mark the beginning of the Chinese New Year.

London boasts the world's largest celebrations for Chinese New Year, outside Asia, which makes the beginning of February the perfect time to head to the capital and see some of the London attractions, as well as join in the festivities.

The date of Chinese New Year varies, but in 2011 it will take place on February 3rd, when revellers see in the start of the year of the rabbit.

One of the 12 animals from the Chinese zodiac represents each year, which is determined based on a rotation.

The order in which the animals change is said to have been set out following a race. According to Chinese legend, the Jade Emperor arranged the challenge after the animals could not decide on their order in the zodiac calendar amongst themselves.

It was the rat that reached the finish line first, followed by the ox, the tiger and the rabbit.

The other animals that comprise the Chinese zodiac are the dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

But regardless of which year is being celebrated, you can guarantee that the festivities will go off with a bang!

Although you would expect there to be plenty going on in China Town itself, you will also find events taking place in Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square and even stretching along Shaftesbury Avenue.

Among the highlights are the dragon dances, where the brightly decorated costumes will take centre stage as the dancers expertly manoeuvre them around the crowds.

In 2010, revellers were also treated to a display of dancing, music and acrobatics - and those visiting London this year could be in for a similar show.

Each year, an opening ceremony is held to kick-off proceedings and then the fun commences. It is advisable to wander between the different locations in order to take in all the activities and shows that are going on.

Firecrackers and fireworks are an important part of Chinese culture and you are likely to find regular fireworks displays taking place once the light begins to fade.

Another popular way to mark the occasion is to have a meal at a Chinese restaurant and you certainly won't find a shortage of such establishments in this part of London.

Many of the eateries in China Town will offer special set menus around the Chinese New Year and you may even be lucky enough to see some classic entertainment while you enjoy your food, although it is sensible to book in advance as this is a busy time of year.

But even if you cannot make it to China Town at the beginning of February, you may want to add it to your list of things to do in London when you next visit the capital city.

The restaurants draw people from far and wide and with more than 80 of them, you will find you are spoilt for choice. There is also a wide range of shops where you can buy goods from China and the rest of Asia - or you could choose to visit a reflexology specialist with many practising in this part of London.

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