Chinese New Year 2016

Performance at the Chinese New Year celebrations in 2004, in London's Trafalgar Square

By Ellie Buchdahl at Education UK, 27 January 2014, updated 14 January 2016

Christmas may be over, but the celebrations don’t stop. Cities across the UK are gearing up for Chinese New Year on February 8!

There is a large Chinese community in the UK, but people from all cultures love to get involved… and you can understand why.

It’s almost impossible to resist the bright red lanterns, street dances and drumming performances – not to mention the smells of hot, spicy noodles, juicy stuffed buns and sweet, crispy Peking duck that steam from the UK’s Chinese restaurants.

Many of the biggest cities across the UK – for example, London, Manchester and Nottingham – have Chinese districts with huge celebrations.

Want to find out more about the UK's cultural calendar?

And across the UK, many schools, colleges and universities hold celebrations of their own – and people from all nationalities are invited.

To help you get ready for the Year of the Monkey, Education UK brings you a guide to some of the best student spots to say xin nian kuai le! Happy New Year!

London

The annual celebrations in the capital’s Chinatown and Trafalgar Square are the biggest in the world outside Asia. But look beyond the tourists and you’ll find even more going on, thanks to London’s Chinese student community.

The Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) supports social and cultural activities among Chinese students in the UK. Its official Gala draws top UK and Chinese officials (the Chinese ambassador among them), who come to see carefully selected performances by CSSA members from across the country.

Thinking of studying in London? Check out these tips from international students in the know...

Tickets sell in a flash – but don’t worry if you’ve missed out. The party goes on at London’s universities.

You might get the chance to taste Chinese delicacies, including spring rolls and prawn crackers, or watch Chinese singing and dancing performances. Check out the highlights from last year's Chinese New Year celebrations at South Bank University for inspiration.

Chinatown in London: Insider's tip

Cheap all-you-can-eat buffets can be tempting, but for the most authentic taste to start 2016 (and one that still doesn’t break the bank), it’s best to ask an expert.

Wenbo Lu, 24, from the city of Harbin in northern China, did a 2+2 BA in Business Administration at London South Bank University (partnered with Heilongjiang International University, where he studies in China).

'Chinatown is mostly a mix of English food, Cantonese food, and some food that’s from nowhere apart from Chinatown!' he warns.

'Go to the Beijing dumpling house opposite the Sunny Supermarket. They have jianbing guozi – a big, folded egg pancake with spicy sauce and herbs, which is my favourite Chinese street food.

'Nearby is the ren min gong she – or Baozi Inn in English – a restaurant which makes amazing spicy meat skewers like the ones you buy on any street in northern China. Delicious!'

Nottingham

The city of Nottingham in the East Midlands of England holds one of the biggest Chinese New Year celebrations outside London, hosted by The University of Nottingham, its student societies and the local community, which ends in an amazing fireworks display over Highfields Lake on Sunday 14 February.

The University of Nottingham’s Lakeside Arts Centre hosts a series of special exhibitions, performances and workshops for students and members of the public throughout the Chinese New Year period.

This year’s events at Lakeside Arts Centre feature traditional Chinese brush artist Jiang Hongshan and choreographer Rong Tao. Craft workshops and traditional Chinese performances are also taking place in Nottingham and Beeston on Saturday 13 February.

Read more here.

Click here to read tips from international students studying in Nottingham!

Exeter

The University of Exeter hosts some of the biggest Chinese New Year celebrations in the city, with more than 2,500 people attending every year.

Around lunchtime on Saturday, 13 February, dragon and lion dancing will kick off a festival that will run until the evening with food stalls, martial arts demonstrations, workshops and activities, all building up to the grand fireworks display in the evening.

Lee Haywood Dragon! on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
A Chinese dragon parades through Nottingham (Picture by Lee Haywood CC BY-SA 2.0)

Truly traditional

Being away from home during the biggest family festival of the year isn’t always easy for Chinese students in the UK – so hanging out with international friends is especially important.

Back to Wenbo Lu for tips on how to feel at home away from home.

'China is eight hours ahead of the UK, so I sit with friends and watch the CCTV (China Central Television) Spring Festival Gala on television at midday instead of at night, which is weird – but at least you’re not so tired! We make dumplings, play games, and see in the New Year together. If it’s the weekend, we stay up all night.

'Everyone misses home, but it’s still fun celebrating – and my parents still transfer me "lucky money", like they did when I was a little child in China!'

Many UK campuses hold Chinese New Year celebrations, but if yours doesn’t, why not organise your own?

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