We’re a five-minute walk away when we first hear the drums. It echoes intensely down the street, the sound of a quickening heartbeat. We walk faster just in time to see vibrant dragon tails dancing through the entrance of The Arcadian. They wriggle through the entrance in time to the music, enlarging crowds following close behind. Cameras held high, people marvel at the hypnotised dragons as they dance into the centrepiece of Birmingham’s Chinese Quarter.
By the time we get to the entrance ourselves the lion dancing has finished, the dragons now shimmying through crowds to walk through the rest of Chinatown. But that’s not the end of the three-day event. Far from it. A stage has been erected, a charming spokesperson announcing the arrival of a new Chinese singer or dancer. The sweet scent of dumplings wafts out from within small, pop-up food stalls, paired with the sizzling of succulent burgers. Local cafes and bakeries are choc-a-block full of smiling customers, and children carry colourful hand-made dragons or Dui Lians.
The Chinese Quarter has organised and produced all of this in honour of Chinese New Year. Unlike the majority of the world, China has formed its calendar around the phases of the moon. This usually means that they tend to celebrate it around a month after the rest of the world. This tradition dates back centuries, where it is told to have first begun with a battle against the mythical creature, Nian (appropriately translated to ‘year’). Nian would often appear on New Year’s Eve when it would come out to harm the locals, their properties and animals. Over time, locals found that Nian was afraid of loud noises, the colour red and fire. This, therefore, lead to the use of fireworks and red decorations as a form of self protection.
Today, the event is more sociable. Also known as the Spring Festival, this tradition is one of the most important in Chinese Culture. I will admit my friends and I spent the majority of the time in Caffe Chino and the Dragon’s Inn, so we were unable to view a lot of the events throughout the day. But even from indoors, the atmosphere of the often quiet, serene Arcadian felt a million miles away. The sound of laughter cackles in the air, a steady stream of people enjoying the acts and the food. For those three days, China came to Birmingham in all of its dazzling beauty.
Little side note:
Chinese New Year took place on the 5th of February 2019, with the Birmingham celebrations set in place for the 8th to the 10th of February. This post is pretty late because I was super ill for almost half of this month and then went abroad to get some more content for you avid readers (keep an eye out on Saturday!). Leave me a comment on what you think! 😀
((All pictures are taken with Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, and edited with the free version of Photoshop Express.))