In 2018 Chinese New Year falls on the 16th of February. This is one of the most important festivals in countries like China and Vietnam, and the lunar new year is celebrated in many other countries including Singapore, Malaysia and countries with large populations of Chinese migrants. Sure, the celebrations in Southampton won't be as huge as what you can expect on the streets of Hong Kong or Shanghai, but you can still find many opportunities around the city to enjoy some traditional Chinese New Year celebrations.
Each year in the Chinese calendar is represented by a certain zodiac figure as well as by an elemental sign. 2018 is the Year of the Dog, and it is the first Year of the Earth Dog since 1958.
Chinese New Year Traditions
Chinese New Year celebrations feature many traditions that help to bring luck and prosperity for the new year. People will often exchange gifts during the festive season. Red envelopes (also known as lucky money, hongbao in Mandarin, lai see in Cantonese and li xi in Vietnamese) are given by married couples to unmarried adults younger than them, elderly people and children. This exchange brings luck to both the receiver and the giver. There are certain beliefs about the luck associated with different numbers that will often determine which amounts are given. Other gifts include food; fruit is particularly common, especially oranges, and cakes, biscuits and sweets are also handed out. Certain gifts can be bad luck to give during the Chinese New Year period.
Another festive celebration is the lion dance. These are performed all over the country on streets and in businesses and homes. The lion dance is a lively affair with clashing cymbals, banging drums, and a brightly coloured lion figure that often performs various acrobatic stunts. There are various different styles depending on the region or country. In many places Chinese New Year festivities are also accompanied by fireworks displays or firecrackers. These are a mainstay of most New Year celebrations, but they're even more fitting for Chinese New Year as fire crackers were invented in China.
Chinese New Year Events in Southampton
Southampton Chinese New Year Celebrations begin in early February. There are a range of different events that will give you a taste of these Lunar New Year traditions.
Chinese Arts Southampton is an organisation that aims to bring awareness to traditional Chinese culture and arts. They are hosting the Chinese New Year Celebration Gala at Turner Sims to celebrate the upcoming Year of the Dog festivities.
Doors open at 6:30pm for a 7pm start. There will be performances throughout the evening including Chinese folk dances, traditional Chinese music, martial arts demonstrations, and a Chinese New Year lion dance.
February 10-18, 10:30am-3:30pm
Itchen Valley Country Park
Allington Lane, West End, Southampton
If you're interested in learning a little bit more about Chinese New Year celebrations you can bring the family along to Itchen Valley Country Park for their Chinese New Year Trail. Pick up a map and question sheet from the visitor centre and follow the markers to learn more about Chinese traditions and culture. The path follows the Forest Trail, so you'll get to enjoy some nice scenery as well.
It costs £2 to pick up your trail map and this includes the map, questions and a prize.
Lunar New Year Lunch University of Southampton Diversity Team
Wednesday February 14, 12:30-1:30pm
Turner Sims Concert Hall
Salisbury Road, Southampton
The University of Southampton's Diversity Team are putting on a lunch in celebration of Chinese New Year. There will be performances, lunch and networking opportunities.
UK Shaolin Temple are an organisation that aims to promote and preserve the activities, traditions and philosophies of Shaolin culture as practiced by the Chan Buddhist Shaolin Temple. For Chinese New Year they'll be hosting an event that focusses on the martial arts activities that the centre teaches and demonstrates.
There will be kung fu and tai chi performances as well as demonstrations using weapons and acrobatics. The event will also include traditional Chinese lion and dragon dances.
Shanghai 1814 is a Chinese restaurant and bar that serves delicious food, fine wine, and even has karaoke. Their menu includes Chinese delicacies like peking duck or steaming clay pots, but there are also banquet dining options and yum cha available. They'll be open for Chinese New Year and will have a special dragon dance performance at 8pm.
It's sure to be a popular night for bookings. Bookings can be made online or by calling 02380 330888.
February 2, 7-11pm
Emirates Spinnaker Tower
Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth
Portsmouth's Hong Kong Society is hosting a big party in celebration of the upcoming Lunar New Year with a DJ, a Chinese finger food banquet and some of the best views of the Portsmouth Harbour. The event runs from 7pm till 11pm and once things quieten down there's an after party at Tiger Tiger.
Electric Woods is a sound and light show at Robin Hill Country Park that uses sounds, vibrant lights and illuminations to bring the park to life. For Chinese New Year you can enjoy the specially themed Spirit of the Orient Display which features special Chinese themed light shows and decorations alongside other entertainment.
Experience a lion dance with a difference as the choreographed dance is lit up with illuminated lions. There are also plenty of other activities for children including an interactive storytelling session, a dragon procession, and a Chinese lantern crafting area. Everyone can participate in the wishing tree where you hang your wishes to help bring good luck in the New Year. If you get hungry there's a Chinese menu served by the ponds, or you can toast marshmallows over an open fire - that last part might not be very Chinese, but who's complaining?
Tickets are £15.00 or £13.50 for concessions. Group tickets are £55.00 for four people, or you can purchase a meal with your entry ticket for a combined price of £23. All tickets can be purchased online.
Chinese New Year at Gunwharf Quays will include traditional performances and special deals across their many shops and restaurants. There will be marital arts demonstrations from the Shaolin Temple and a traditional lion dance.
For the best specials you'll have to get there early. There will be a limited number of lucky red envelopes being handed out from 9am containing discounts for stores like Coach, Karl Lagerfeld, Karen Millen, Links of London and more. Other deals include food tastings and fortune cookies.
The event is free and bookings aren't required, but you'll want to get there early for a chance at some of the special deals.
The day begins with a free food and art workshop where you'll try your hand at some traditional Chinese crafts and get to learn about the traditional Chinese cuisine that accompanies the festive season. The food and art workshop runs from 11am-1pm.
After this the extravaganza begins. This is a ticketed event and prices are £7 for adults and £4.50 for concessions, students and children. It will be an afternoon of traditional performances including singing, dancing, marital arts and, of course, the Chinese lion dance.
Tickets can be booked online or by calling the Portsmouth Guildhall box office on 0844 847 2362.
As you can see, there's no shortage of things to do to celebrate Chinese New Year. So mark these dates in your diary and plan your celebrations for the Lunar New Year festive season.