Tens of thousands of people have turned out to see colourful dancing dragons help celebrate the Chinese New Year across the UK.
In London they were treated to a blaze of red and gold with elaborate costumes, awakening lion dancing, Chinese performers, street food stalls plus Chinese arts and crafts as the city’s Chinatown hosted a day of family-friendly activities.
Peter Yick Kuen Lam, president of the London Chinatown Chinese Association (LCCA) which organised the festival that welcomed the Year of the Dragon, said: “It is very important for us. Chinese New Year is just like Christmas.
“It is a very special event for the Chinese community and a chance for us to have a good cultural exchange.
“We can share our joyfulness with everyone. It is a chance to celebrate.
He added: “Today is a special day for gathering.
“It is all red because red is a lucky colour, it is all red and gold.
“I hope it will give everyone happiness and the start to a prosperous new year. Peace and happiness is especially important.”
More than 500,000 people are expected to enjoy the day’s celebrations, the organisers say.
A traditional parade, complete with dragons, swirling dancers and handcrafted floats, kicked off the dizzying array of events in central London and its Chinatown neighbourhood.
There were leaping acrobats dressed in elaborate dragon costumes, music and a dramatic electric firecracker display.
Some lucky children were seen clutching toy dragons and gold balloons while many visitors were given red packages (in the form of red envelopes) as a symbol of good fortune.
Senior figures from the London and Chinese community, including Mayor Sadiq Khan, joined thousands of wellwishers in Trafalgar Square who watched an opening ceremony which included the “awakening” of colourful costumed lions.
The Year of the Dragon is considered one of the most powerful and auspicious years in the Chinese zodiac, symbolising strength, fortune and success.
The theme for the 2024 celebrations is Roaring into Sustainable Prosperity and Empowering Youth, the LCCA said.
Mr Khan hailed the contribution of Londoners of Chinese origin and warned against those who want to “divide and discourage”.
In a speech to the revellers in Trafalgar Square, he said: “Thank you for contributing to our city culturally, economically and socially.
He added: “There are some people who try to divide our communities.
“We can’t let them succeed. We have got to show them that our diversity is a strength.
“This Year of the Dragon is about good prosperity, good fortune and good luck – and don’t we just need that this year of all years.”