As promised, I headed into taaan for the Chinese New Year celebrations this weekend. I've never visited central London during the celebrations before and I wasn't sure what to expect...how many people?I was a little shocked I must say. The main performances etc were being held in Trafalgar Square. Firecrackers, dotting the Dragons eyes in a ceremony that 'brings them to life', dragon dancing, lion dancing and all kinds of other displays. It all kicked off at 12pm and I thought I'd turn up around that time.
When I hit Trafalgar Square I was amazed at the sheer number of people who had come out for the day, especially given the rather nasty damp weather. There was no hope of getting anywhere close to the stage, it was a struggle to even get down into the square proper. Everywhere were red helium-filled balloons and people with mini dragons-on-sticks. Red chinese lanterns adorned just about every wall or railing. Kids (and some girlfriends) were lifted onto shoulders to enjoy the show.
I could hear stuff, but couldn't see anything for love nor money...so after a short bimble around and a couple of photos I decided to make my way to China Town where there was bound to be some bits and bobs going on.
As I approached China Town I could hear the sound of drumming and followed my ears to a small side street where a large crowd had gathered. From within the crowd I could hear the drumming, and then over their heads I saw two chinese dragons cavorting around in the street outside the local shops.
From my dodgy vantage point, all of a sudden, I saw shredded cabbage leaves being thrown into the audience....WTF??
After becoming a sheep and following the crowd around for a little while I figured out what was going on. The dragons were stopping outside every shop that had hung a cabbage outside. Attached to the cabbage was a red envelope that contained money. The dragon did his dance outside the shop doorway and then 'reared up' to grab the cabbage and the envelope. He then proceeded to shred the cabbage to bits and 'spit' it out all over the audience and in front of the shop.
I later found out that this ritual is called 'the picking of the greens'. In chinese mythology, dragons are meant to scare away evil spirits, so to have a dragon visit your establishment is to ensure good fortune and prosperity for the coming year.
Unfortunately I couldn't get close enough to get a decent video of the whole ritual, but I was lucky enough to be in the line of fire when the dragons finished in one street and lolloped around to the next, they came straight past me. And later on I caught them with a man actually dangling a cabbage from the first floor of his restaurant, I got some pics of that.
Waiting for the dragon
Cabbage eating dragons....why don't WE have fascinating festivals and rituals like this? No imagination!
Nom Nom Cabbage!
I also fell prey to the mood of the day and found myself purchasing an absolutely beautiful white chinese-style tunic top with an embroidered peacock on the front. NOT to be worn whilst drinking red wine. Beautiful it is. When I have camera batteries again I'll take a pic!
It was great seeing so many people out celebrating. Chinese food stand lined the streets, and one couple had dressed their small son in traditional chinese dress. He looked like a little prince, utterly gorgeous and cute.
Ironically, I then went and had dinner in Bella Italia...for a sociable person I canny stand crowds!!