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Tripping the light fantastic at the Magical Lantern Festival

London’s first Magical Lantern Festival transforms Chiswick House Gardens

© Chinese Lantern Festival

Visit the Magical Lantern Festival at Chiswick House Gardens from 3 February – 6 March 2016

Coming to London this Chinese New Year will be the capital’s first Magical Lantern Festival. Chiswick House Gardens will be transformed for a 29-day festival of lights to celebrate the Year of the Monkey. Over 50 giant hand-sculpted lanterns will be dotted through the gardens with guests passing through Corridors of Light into colourful themed zones.

Chinese Lantern Festival

Walk through different illuminated zones

The centrepiece of the festival will be a striking 66-metre dragon spanning the lake with its scales glistening on the water. Visitors will be in awe as they look up at a 10-metre recreation of Beijing’s Temple of Heaven and a 8-metre porcelain Imperial Palace featuring a lantern Terracotta Army. In the Animal Kingdom zone, there will be life-sized flamingos, zebras, kangaroos and elephants amongst the trees. These light installations are a nod to a former owner of Chiswick House, the Sixth Duke Of Devonshire (1790-1858), who kept exotic animals in the gardens in the 19th century. Along in the Enchanted Forest will feature a stunning Tree of Life, with illuminated oversized mushrooms, plants and flowers exploding around it, while giant lotus flowers will open and close on the water features. Meanwhile, an illuminated waterfall will be the setting for a lantern recreation of the Chinese fable The Monkey King.

The festival channels China’s 2000 year heritage and is the brainchild of Weli Creative Director, David Lee and Creative Director, Ian Xiang, who explained: ‘London was chosen as the first city to host this amazing, 29-day festival of light, due to its status as the multicultural  centre of the Western World. We selected an iconic venue for this iconic event, providing a unique, cultural experience and marking the 15th day of the Lunisolar year’s first month and the last day of the Lunar New Year celebration.’

During the 75 minute experience, visitors can also sample a range of international food and hot drinks in the undercover heated seating area, with unique gifts on offer to take home from the market.

  • The Magical Lantern Festival runs from 3 February to 6 March 2016 at Chiswick House Gardens, Chiswick, W4 2QN. Nearest stations: Turnham Green and Gunnersbury. Open Tuesday-Sunday 5-10.30pm (closed on Mondays, except 8 February for Chinese New Year opening). Tickets (ticketed entry every 15 mins from 5-8.45pm): Adults £16 (online), £18 (on the door). Child £10 (advance), £12 (on the door). Family £56. For booking and more information, visit the Magical Lantern UK website.

For a guide to what else is on in London this month, click here.

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Celebrate the Year Of The Sheep as Chinatown London marks Chinese New Year

China Town London

A sea of red and yellow: The streets of Chinatown will play host to the Year Of The Sheep celebrations
© Chinatown London

This Thursday (19 February) sees the arrival of the Chinese New Year Of The Sheep. With London having long had a large Chinese population, it’s no surprise to see the city will be hosting the biggest celebrations of the New Year in Europe. On Sunday, the action will spill beyond the borders of Chinatown into Trafalgar Square with fun and festivities to mark the advent of the new year. The Sheep (goat or ram) is known for being gentle and calm, with people being born in the animal’s years being tender, polite, shy, filial, clever, indecisive and kind-hearted.

© Chinatown London

Trafalgar Square will play host to performances from Chinese artists
© Chinatown London

For early risers, the New Year’s Parade will begin in Trafalgar Square at 10am, going through the West End before ending in Chinatown. Meanwhile, back in Trafalgar Square, a street party kicks off at noon, featuring performances from Chinese acrobatics, traditional dancers and the iconic lion dance, which will weave through the streets wishing restaurant owners good luck for the coming year. Mr Wei Ding, who performed the culture evening show for world leaders at the APEC Summit last November, is producing a variety show ‘Cultures of China, Festival of Spring’. While Trafalgar will be playing host to large-scale performances, there will also be a second stage on Shaftesbury Avenue for local acts and upcoming talent. including martial arts groups, Canto pop and K-pop. The celebrations will be hosted by British Chinese actress Jing Lusi (Holby City) and Amy Herzog’s award-winning play 4000 Miles.

And of course, no Chinese New Year celebrations would be complete without the country’s famous cuisines being represented. Over 80 restaurants in Chinatown will be offering a range of cuisines from traditional Hong Kong street food to modern Chinese fusion from Shanghai and Beijing. Among the venues taking part include the Golden Phoenix and Opium Cocktail And Dim Sum Parlour on Gerrard Street. Many eateries will be setting up craft stalls and food stands outside so you can eat on the move or take home a piece of Chinese arts and crafts.

Chinese New Year Highlights to look out for:

10am: Parade begins at Trafalgar Square, ending on Shaftesbury Avenue

12-1pm: Dragon and Lion Dance performance at the Trafalgar Square Stage

1.30pm: Cultures of China – Festival of Spring performance on Trafalgar Square Stage

3.30pm: Red Poppy Ladies Percussion Group performance on Trafalgar Square Stage

5-6pm: Finale on Trafalgar Square Stage

  • Chinese New Year celebrations will take part on Sunday 22 February 2015 from 10am to 6pm. Free. Nearest stations: Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square and Charing Cross. For more information, visit the Chinatown London website.

For a guide to what else is on in London this month, click here.

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