Chinese New Year 2020: what the rat symbolises and where to celebrate in London

Chinese New Year is the most important and most spectacular festival in Chinese culture, spanning seven days of celebration.

Instead of being marked on 1 January, the date for Chinese New Year moves according to the lunar calendar. The holiday is sometimes also commonly referred to as 'Spring Festival', or 'Lunar New Year'.

When is Chinese New Year?The Year of the Rat will begin on January 25 2020.

Which birth years are in the rat zodiac sign?

If you are born in 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020 then you are a rat.

What does the rat symbolise?In Chinese culture, rats were seen as a sign of wealth and surplus, and because of their reproduction rate, married couples would pray to them in the hope for children.

London's Chinese New Year ParadeSunday 26 January sees a huge and colourful celebration taking place throughout Chinatown and Trafalgar Square, and is completely free to watch. It's the biggest Chinese New Year celebration outside of Asia.

Celebrations begin from 10am with parade floats on Charing Cross Road, followed by dancing, crafts stalls, food and drink, and martial arts in Chinatown.

Festivities in Trafalgar Square start from 11am with shows and a thanksgiving ceremony, followed by firecrackers, speeches and the Lions’ Eye-Dotting Ceremony.

Dancers perform a Chinese dragon dance in Trafalgar Square, London, as part of the Chinese New Year's celebrations. Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Dragon Dancers and Lion DancersKeep a watchful eye out for the dragon dancers and lion dancers, which are believed to bring good luck. A dragon dance consists of a long train held on poles by many people, while a lion dance is performed in a costume worn by only two dancers. Many local Chinatown businesses offer up money to the dragons and lions as it is believed to bring good fortune for the year ahead.

A Chinese Lion rises to pick lettuce off a fishing line to eat it, which denotes a new beginning, at the SeeWoo shop in Lisle Street. Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA

There are plenty of ways to get involved and celebrate outside of London's Chinatown. Below are some of the activities taking place across the capital:

BFI Southbank, SouthwarkThe British Film Institute Southbank has a special programme of screenings showcasing some of the best of Chinese cinema. The showings include Little Q, a drama about a grumpy chef who finds a new lease of life in his guide dog when he starts to lose his sight, and the 2017 documentary Four Springs which follows a couple preparing for New Year over a four year period.

National Maritime Museum, GreenwhichThe museum is hosting a day of family activities including origami, flag printing, Chinese storytelling and the chance to learn to play the game Mahjong. The day of celebration runs from 11am-4pm with sessions in Mandarin and English.

Duke of York Square, ChelseaFrom 10am-4pm, the square’s regular Saturday Fine Food Market is getting an Asian makeover with a special Chinese market serving traditional delicacies and entertainment alongside the usual traders.

Museum of London DocklandsOver the weekend there will be a range of activities including performances, martial arts demonstrations and creative workshops at the museum’s family-friendly event. Suitable for all ages, activities start from 11am.