Although red lanterns have decorated the streets of Manchester city centre for a few weeks now, this weekend was when the city really came to life with the celebrations for Chinese New Year. Today we hear from Bali Lee, one of our second year students in the Faculty of Life Sciences, who explains that in a city as vibrant and diverse as Manchester, it can make an international holiday feel like home.
The Chinese New Year is a celebration centred on visiting family and friends. It is a festival of food and good times and like our own New Year, focuses on the future and what the New Year can hold. Therefore the celebrations for it are always infectious and full of colour and movement. I lived in Singapore for three years and the Chinese New Year was a serious event in the yearly calendar. I always looked forward to it because of the fun decorations that would cover Singapore and the delicious food I knew I could look out for. As an undergraduate Neuroscientist at The University of Manchester, the Chinese New Year celebrations offer themselves as a welcome relief having just finished exams.
The Chinese New Year celebrations in Manchester span a total of four days, with various events and exhibitions on show in the city centre. The New Year light show in St. Ann’s square was spectacular and interwove light projections with cinematography that included an animated story of the zodiac signs and artwork to honor the arrival of the year of the monkey.
Exhibitions included RareKind China street art, parkour monkey runners, lion dancers, and live dance acts and music by local Chinese musicians. All of this helped contribute to the atmosphere of celebration, which was enhanced by the crowds of excited observers, even on a drizzly Saturday afternoon. Many of the live events were even presented and performed by students from The University of Manchester!
With so many spectators and revelers in the street one might expect there to be no room for anything else. However, the Chinese New Year celebrations revolve around food and the street food vendors did not disappoint. Stalls lined the streets of Chinatown and it was not only Chinese food that was on offer: Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese etc., all were present. I picked up some Chuan’r (chinese kebabs), Ci Faan (stuffed rice balls) and candied fruit all for under £8!
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On the Sunday there was a dragon parade leading to Chinatown. The weather was perfect and the cool crisp blue of the sky perfectly contrasted with the flashing red and gold colours on the dragon and the dancers. The mood was contagious and the oriental music that accompanied the parade made me feel like I was back in Singapore. Every tenth person in the crowd was carrying a streamer or ribbon. These were being sold for £1 each and came in a variety of colours. Naturally the streets of Chinatown, and a lot of the centre were decked out with Chinese lanterns and these too added to the authentic charm of the festivities. My favourite event was most definitely the parade, and I would recommend it to anyone visiting Manchester around the time of the Chinese New Year.
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Indeed, what was so great about the whole festival was the mix of people present. A whole range of ethnicities was represented as everyone in Manchester came out to enjoy the good food and fun. I believe that the celebrations did an amazing job of showcasing Chinese and South-East Asian culture as well as taking the opportunity to promote local authentic Chinese artistry and cuisine.
Kung Hei Fat Choi!
As 2016 is the year of the Monkey, why not watch our Minute Lecture about Primates!