Year of the Dragon roars into the UK


Two weeks of celebrations are set to start tomorrow as communities mark the arrival of Chinese New Year.

The 15-day event, which runs until February 6, marks the arrival of the Year of the Dragon.

Chinese and other communities across the UK will be celebrating throughout the extended festival, and London will hold its own organised celebrations next Sunday, including an official ceremony attended by Mayor Boris Johnson as well as Chinese Ambassador to London Liu Xiaoming.

The festivities will start at 10am on Sunday with a New Year parade around London's West End, reaching its final destination of Trafalgar Square at noon.

There will then be an official opening ceremony in Trafalgar Square with speeches from Mr Johnson, Lord Mayor of Westminster Susie Burbridge, and Mr Xiaoming.

Once officially opened, celebrations will kick off with dragon dancing, music and performances on the Trafalgar Square stage until 6pm.

A second stage in Shaftesbury Avenue will host performances from a range of local community groups and schools.

The capital's famous Chinatown will also play host to a parade by lion dancers as well as a range of stalls selling traditional produce throughout the day

Other celebrations are also under way across the country.

An event in Medway, Kent, thought to be one of the largest, started yesterday in Chatham High Street and the Pentagon Shopping Centre, with dancers, food stalls, Chinese gifts and New Year calendars.

They continue today with the Medway Chinese New Year Parade, which starts at noon in Military Road, Chatham, and includes Chinese dragons, lion and unicorn dancers, and more than 150 people in Chinese costume, followed at 2.30pm by an annual show from the Medway dragon and lion dance team at town's Central Theatre.

It will feature dragon and lion dancing, martial arts, Chinese pop music and traditional musicians, as well as special guests from Foshan in China.

And in Scotland, the home of guest giant pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang - who are on loan from China - the arrival of the Year of the Dragon will also be marked.

A series of events will be held at Edinburgh Zoo to mark the occasion, including a reading by Hong Kong-based children's author Sarah Brennan from her book The Tale of Pin Yin Panda; Chinese language and calligraphy classes; and Chinese-related activities.

Panda-costumed characters will entertain around the zoo, and its restaurant will serve Chinese cuisine.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, who paid his third visit to China in as many years last month, has extended his good wishes ahead of the New Year celebrations, saying the countries' friendship has gone from strength to strength in the past year.