London is an amazingly multicultural city. I can confirm this as I’ve been here for 20 years and in that time have built a friendship group consisting of two people from Poland, a Malaysian/Chinese architect, a Theologian from the Philippines and live with housemates from China, Japan and Northern Ireland. In very few cities in the world am I able to meet and befriend such a assorted selection of treats in the pick-n-mix that is life.
When it comes to celebrations, the regional enthusiasm of all of these diverse backgrounds has an accommodating stage somewhere in the city. Last week was Chinese New Year, and I was particularly excited about this because it would be my first year celebrating in China town itself.
My housemates and I went early to an atmosphere that was steadily amplifying till the festivities began. Outside each restaurant were large, foil-wrapped, tubs of street food, ranging from noodles with pork, beef and chicken to treats like egg tarts and sponge cake. All nostrils were tinged with the aromatic blend of the concoctions used to make this vast mound of food. Towards the outer edges of the town were stalls selling bright red souvenirs for tourists, such as trowing-crackers (whose small, exhorting sound were filling the air) and origami dragons that children were playing with. Every Chinese face was aglow with anticipation, every other face was eagerly looking around with great curiosity.
Just before noon the lion came out, as prominently indicated to all by the rhythmic drumming and the steady cymbals that accompanied it. It danced it’s way through the throng of people, their cameras and camera-phones raised yearningly above their head, trying to capture the beast before them.
The mission for the lion was to make it’s way to every restaurant and get itself some cabbage with a red envelope attached. It would stand outside the door and dance to earn it’s meal. The cabbage was hung high above the door, and once the lion was ready, it would reach up and grab it with it’s mouth, later expelling shards of the cabbage to indicate that it had been eaten (festival aside, I don’t think doing this at a dinner party would be a particularly nice way to impress the guests).
Following the lion was incredibly difficult. The only way to move about was to go with one of the small streams of people that were making their way through the horde. If you were inadvertently caught in one of these flows, you had no choice but to go with it and see where you ended up. In spite of this world-record-setting group hug we all seemed to be a part of, everyone had a great time, and left with a stomach full of delicious Dim-Sum and a camera full of incredibly blurry images of a bright orange lion.
Kung Hei Fat Choy!
Thanks for reading,