Lisle Street being in London’s Chinatown, and the lions in question being the Chinese variety. There were several lions today prowling the streets of Chinatown for the London Chinese community’s New Year celebration (always held on the Sunday following the actual date of Chinese New Year, which this year was 3rd February.) Accompanied by clashing gongs, drums and cymbals, the lions stopped outside each premises to ‘feed’ on green vegetables suspended on a string, in a ceremony called ‘picking the green‘. (Like almost all the symbolism of Chinese New Year, a symbol of good luck and future prosperity.)
We were in Chinatown with some 250,000 other people to join in the celebration. We began in Trafalgar Square where we watched a concert celebrating song and dance from different cultures in China, including Chinese opera singer Liu Xiu Rong (I didn’t know what she was singing about but it didn’t seem very serious – probably the Chinese equivalent of Gilbert and Sullivan); a versatile dance troupe (the elegant Mongolian Pot Dance was particularly impressive) and Tibetan singer Suo Lang Wang Mu (also known as Soinam Wangmo) who sings very powerfully over a wide vocal range with lots of vibrato (apprently a feature of Tibetan singing). Apparently she learned to sing from sheep herders and as a teenager won the Chinese equivalent of X Factor.
We made our way slowly out of a very packed Trafalgar Square to nearby Chinatown, heading for our favourite cake shop, though it took us a while to get there. Like several other businesses, they were selling food from tables in front of the shop, and the crowd was snapping them up like – erm – hot cakes.
Quite an atmosphere, and it rounded off a Chinese New Year that began when we were in Hong Kong, where the streets already being decorated in preparation for the celebration. So kung hei fat choi and may you have a very blessed Year of the Rabbit!
More photos of London’s Chinese New Year celebrations here.