Today marks the start of the Chinese New Year – the Year of the Snake – and the capital is hosting what the Greater London Authority claims is the largest celebration outside Asia.
Our picture (above) captures performers in Soho yesterday rehearsing for festivities, organised by the London Chinatown Chinese Association. The fun starts with a morning parade of floats and mythological creatures. The afternoon's entertainments in Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, Shaftesbury Avenue and Chinatown include acrobatics, martial arts, magic and the Chen Brothers Flying Lion Dance, as well as troupes of artists from China.
The snake is one of a dozen animals in the Chinese zodiac. It is seen as intuitive, introspective, refined, cunning and wise. It succeeds the dragon in the running order. The calendar is based on the lunar cycle, so New Year does not fall on a set date every year. In Chinese astrology, those born in the Year of the Snake (every 12 years) are smart and are not easily flustered. But they can be cold, calculating and manipulative. They are graceful, exciting and dark... and are not, well, everyone's cup of tea.
Some people will even postpone weddings or put off having children to avoid the Year of the Snake.