Joyous Celebrations for Chinese New Year in Manchester

by | Feb 15, 2024 | Education, Postgraduate | 0 comments

As an international student from China, I was initially worried about how I would celebrate such an important cultural holiday while studying abroad in the UK. But I was blown away by the exciting festivities Manchester put on to welcome the Year of the Dragon! The traditions, cuisine, performances and spirit of Chinese New Year came alive in this multicultural city. 

Celebrations in Manchester’s Chinatown

In the final days before the new lunar year, anticipation built up as Manchester hosted various events leading up to the big day. I browsed the Chinese costumes and crafts at the museum while watching an impressive professional lion dance troupe. The lions pranced and danced to the beat of drums and cymbals, with fierce expressions to ward off evil spirits. An erhu musician played classic tunes that reminded me of my childhood. I also attempted calligraphy and making knots out of red ribbons – traditional arts requiring concentration and skill. Immersing myself in these celebrations got me excited for the upcoming holiday. 

On New Year’s Eve, the celebrations turned more intimate and family-oriented. After my last class finished, I couldn’t wait to get cooking! I met up with a group of friends to go grocery shopping in Chinatown. The supermarket was packed with people stocking up on fish, dumplings, vegetables, rice, and more for our reunion dinner. We took our bounty back to decorate our apartment with red banners and paper-cut decorations. 

Yiding and friends celebrating with food

Our little community came together to prepare a feast. We turned on some festive background music and got busy chopping, frying, and steaming up a storm. The sizzling pots and wafting aromas transported me back to childhood meals. After hours of cooking and bantering, our table was overflowing with fish for prosperity, longevity noodles, steamboat, dumplings, stir-fried veggies, roast meats, hotpot and more. We dressed up in new red outfits and sat down to enjoy our meal while watching the Spring Festival Gala. Hearing the exuberant chatter mixed with firecrackers outside filled me with joy. This taste of home meant so much. 

After dinner, we handwrote Spring Festival couplets to put up around our doors. We wrote our hopes and wishes for the new year on red paper to hang up for good fortune. Although far from family, gathering with friends to uphold these traditions filled me with comfort and optimism. 

Calligraphy activities

The first day of the new year arrived clear and bright. My friends and I started it auspiciously by visiting the Manchester Fo Guang Shan. The temple was packed with people lighting incense, praying, and donating. We received red envelopes with lucky money and prayed for good grades, health, and happiness. We learned how to stamp our wishes on red paper for blessings in the new year. Trying calligraphy dip pens also reminded me of childhood lessons. 

After leaving the temple, we couldn’t wait to immerse ourselves in the Chinatown celebrations! The streets were overflowing with festive vibes. Red lanterns and banners adorned every corner. Drummers gathered to welcome in good spirits. Dazzling dragon dances snaked through the crowds, with performers mimicking flowing water movements. Hundreds gathered to watch dancers in colorful ethnic minority outfits representing China’s diversity. Trying crispy street snacks and appreciating all the marvellous sights and sounds filled me with awe. I was overwhelmed realizing how alive Chinese culture was even thousands of miles from home. 

Festivities to celebrate the New Year in Manchester

The following days had even more incredible celebrations. Parades of clanging lion dancers, undulating dragons, and gods of wealth amused hordes of spectators. The streets were filled with the crackling of fireworks as people exchanged red envelope gifts. Fascinating Tai Chi and martial arts demonstrations wowed crowds with their fluidity. Manchester’s Chinatown transformed into a microcosm of China through the efforts of the community. Although celebrants came from varied backgrounds, the joy of welcoming the New Year unified everyone. 

As the fireworks and festivities gradually subsided, I reflected on this poignant experience sharing traditions from my homeland. Spending Chinese New Year in Manchester gifted me greater cultural awareness and identity as a Chinese international student. Although missing family, the camaraderie and exchanges with new friends touched my heart. Now the Year of the Dragon has officially hopped in, and I feel optimistic about new beginnings. I’m grateful I got to welcome it with colorful celebrations that brought me a sense of belonging even while abroad. The communities that came together to ring in the Chinese New Year showed the boundary-crossing magic of cultural festivities. 


Written by Yiding, current MA International Education: Public Policy and Management student