The Chinese year of the dragon is upon us, and with it abundant optimism as the highly revered symbol is inextricably linked to strength, good fortune, success and new opportunities. With that in mind, it’s time to celebrate, and from dining out to how to feng shui your apartment, here’s our guide on things to do in Canary Wharf for Chinese New Year 2024.
What is the Year of the Dragon?
The Year of the Dragon (also known as Loong) is the fifth of the 12-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar. More specifically, 2024 is the year of the wood dragon, starting from 10th February 2024 and lasting until 28th January 2025. Other Years of the Dragon have included 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000 and 2012, and it is associated with the Earthly Branch symbol 辰, pronounced ‘chen’. Those born in the year of the dragon are believed to be charismatic, intelligent, confident, powerful and they are naturally lucky and gifted.
Chinese New Year (CNY) and its celebrations
Chinese New Year falls on Saturday 10th February this year, marking an important cultural occasion centred around removing the bad and the old, and welcoming the new and the good. Celebrated in China for thousands of years, it’s a time to worship ancestors and exorcise evil spirits. The occasion marks the Lunar New Year, stemming from the agricultural tradition in ancient China where farmers looked to the moon as a guide for when to sow and harvest crops. It is the start of a new annual cycle – a new beginning.
Chinese New Year is traditionally celebrated with a family dinner on New Year’s Eve – many head home to be with loved ones – so much so that in 2023 two billion domestic trips were expected within China. If you’re lucky, senior members of the family will give the younger ones good luck pocket money known as Ya Sui Qian, contained in a red envelope. Amongst the traditions people tell mythical stories and allegorical tales which give meaning and reason to traditions for fireworks and bright displays.
Four lucky mascots (the Dragon, Phoenix, Unicorn and Dragon Turtle) are also part of the rituals – the belief was that if you saw one you would have luck for the year ahead. This is now honoured with the Lion and Dragon dances on Chinese New Year – a significant part of the festivities.
Today, Chinese New Year is celebrated in multicultural cities around the world, as well as being a public holiday in China, North and South Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, and Vietnam.
Things to do near Canary Wharf for Chinese New Year
The atmosphere around Chinese New Year is a joy to behold, and while individual people, shops and restaurants celebrate the occasion with their own decorations and festivities, London famously hosts a lively events programme as well. It culminates in the Chinese New Year parade on 10th February, where you can watch colourful floats in the largest gathering of Chinese lions and dragons in Europe.
Typically, the parade kicks off in Charing Cross Road at 10am, before snaking its way through Shaftesbury Avenue in Chinatown. There will also be live performances on stages at Trafalgar Square, featuring a thanksgiving ceremony, speeches, firecrackers, the Lions’ Eye-Dotting Ceremony, Chinese dance and music shows, martial arts displays and more.
Festive dining options and special menus
Food is also a significant part of Chinese New Year with many items being symbolic for luck and prosperity. For example, fish is often a requirement because in Mandarin Chinese, the word for fish (yú), sounds like the word for ‘surplus’ (yú). Oranges are a holiday staple, and sticky rice is considered auspicious as well. Honour the occasion and tuck into sumptuous fare at the best Chinese restaurants in Canary Wharf.
Biang at Wharf Kitchen
Biang at Wharf Kitchen in Jubilee Place is the place to go for mouth-watering street food from the ancient capital of China – Xi’an. Marrying Chinese and Western flavours, it honours the cultural cross-pollination of the ancient Silk Road and is famous for its hand-pulled Biang noodles.
Freshly made Chinese comfort food that celebrates natural ingredients and fantastic flavour, Rice Guys was born of a reverence for exceptional Chinese food at any time of the day. Perfect for a lunchtime meal with a twist and packed with all the good stuff, you’ve got to try their menu. We love their funghi mapo tofu.
Tuck into traditional Hong Kong dishes at Royal China at Westferry Circus, where they’re renowned for their Dim Sum and revered for their daily changing menu. Open from 12 noon until 5pm, it’s daytime dining with a difference where you can sample seasonal and signature dishes as well as popular tasting menus.
T4 Bubble Tea
Instead of your daily coffee, how about traditional Taiwanese tea or maybe even bubble tea for a change? T4 prides itself on a warm welcome and the use of the finest tea leaves (never bags or powder) in hot and cold beverages. Choose from classic Taiwanese tea, inspiring fruit teas and a creative spin on ‘bubble tea’. The sweet drink is made from black tea, milk, ice, and chewy tapioca pearls, all shaken together. It was invented in the 1980s, inspired by the traditional white tapioca ball snack and at T4 you can have lots of fun customising it in all manner of ways with add ons including coconut jelly, Oreos and more!
Also a tea aficionado, YiFang is a chic and relaxing place for a unique drink. They serve traditional fruit tea and tapioca pearl bubble drinks made with only natural ingredients, including premium cane sugar, fresh fruit slices as well as dairy and soya milk. Perhaps you’ll opt for a Golden Jelly Lemon Green Tea, a Mango Passion Fruit Tea, Fresh Milk Tea, a Coffee Mousse Mudflip or more… Whatever you choose, you’re guaranteed quality and taste.
Fireworks and firecrackers (originally crackling bamboo) have become a tradition over Chinese New Year, used to scare away evil spirits. Legend has it that they were first used to help protect people from the attack of the monster Nian, who was believed to destroy houses and villages. Today that myth is honoured with impressive fireworks displays, and Chinese New Year in London is no exception. Details have yet to be revealed, but keep an eye out for local displays near Canary Wharf.
Designing your apartment for the New Year
Decorating is a big part of Chinese New Year celebrations with people spending lots of time adorning their homes to welcome the Gods of Wealth. Folk paintings on walls, hanging red lanterns in and outside the house, displaying couplets (春联) on doors, hanging a big Chinese character LUCK (福) on the main entrance and more are all part of the experience. Often public places are also decorated with banners, flags, flowerpots filled with daffodils for luck, and trees (especially orange, peach and plum) all feature.
If you want to decorate your Canary wharf apartment for Chinese New Year, some of the top recommended ideas are:
- Hang red Chinese lanterns to ward off bad luck.
- Place paper banners on interior and exterior doors with good wishes and statements for the coming year.
- Embrace the art of paper cutting in bright colours and use patterns of animals and plants, all of which have their own unique symbolism. For example, the peach symbolises longevity.
- Try your hand at Chinese New Year paintings, typically of legendary figures and plants.
- Hang the inverted Chinese characters of ‘fu’ over doors. Fu means ‘good fortune’ and hanging it upside down symbolises the desire for good fortune to pour out onto them.
- Fill the house with blooming plants and flowers – popular plants are plum blossoms, orchids, peonies, and peach blossoms, symbolising the coming of spring and wishes for a prosperous new year.
How to feng shui the apartment
A wonderful way to welcome in the new year and embrace a positive 12 months ahead is to feng shui your Canary wharf apartment. Harnessing and harmonising the energy in your home to create a sense of balance in everyday life, the basic principles to get you started are:
- Reduce clutter by creating clean, organised spaces within your apartment – don’t just hide things in cupboards – organise those as well!
- Bring nature into your home with plants (not in the bedroom), water features and organic surfaces like wood and stone. Try to use all five elements in your apartment.
- Maximise the use of natural light and use warm lighting wherever possible.
- Optimise the commanding position – that’s the furthest spot in a room from the door and located on a diagonal. It’s the space where you spend the most time, with the most important item of furniture taking centre stage. For example, if it’s your bedroom then the feature is the bed.
- Decorate in pairs (e.g two bedside tables) and incorporate balance through symmetry in the layout of your space.
Discover what’s on in Canary Wharf