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London's Chinese usher in Year of the Dragon

posted 29 Jan 2012, 09:20 by Mpelembe   [ updated 29 Jan 2012, 09:21 ]

Chinese New Year is celebrated in London, home to the largest celebrations of the event outside of Asia.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM (JANUARY 29, 2012) ) (REUTERS - Thousands celebrated Chinese New Year in London on Sunday (January 29) with firecrackers ushering in the official festivities of Year of the Dragon.

Chinatown London is also celebrating ten years of festivities being held in the historic Trafalgar Square in the shadow of Nelson's Column.

On hand to take part in the Dotting of the Eye ceremony which brings the dragons and lions to life was London's Mayor Boris Johnson.

He welcomed the crowds to the largest Chinese New Year celebration outside of Asia saying: "The incredible crowds here I think are a testimony of the immense contribution of the Chinese community to London."

The crowds were treated to 100 world renowned performers, the highlight of which was the Chen Brothers' Flying Lion Dance.

Lucy Mitchell, spokeswoman for Chinatown London said she can't believe how much the Chinese New Year celebrations have grown in the capital since she was a little girl three decades ago.

"I used to sit up and watch the lion dancing come down the street and it really was about the Chinese community then, all the local shops and just bringing good luck for the coming year, but if you look around you today, 300,000 people are expected. It is truly a multi-cultural now-a-days, not just Chinese but people from all different cultures," she said.

The Year of the Dragon has a special place in Chinese culture, as Mitchell explains: "The Year of the Dragon is very important because it is the only mythological animal in the Chinese zodiac so it is very fortuitous it brings good luck, it is very powerful and strong animal, so it is power, good luck and strength."

Stanley Tse, the President of London's Chinatown Chinese Association, sent good New Year wishes to members of the Chinese communities worldwide.

"Happy New Year to all of China and also to Chinese people around the world. Have a healthy and wealthy new year," he said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and Britain's Queen Elizabeth also sent goodwill messages to the Trafalgar Square crowds.

2012 is not only a year of celebrations for London being the year of the Olympic Games and Queen's Diamond Jubilee, but also the year that Britain celebrates 40 years of full diplomatic relations with China.