Welcome to the year of the snake!
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Despite awful weather with icy wind and uninterrupted rain, people gathered over the weekend to celebrate the beginning of the year of the snake.
The two main spots of activity in London were Trafalgar Square and Chinatown, the area of the Chinese community that stretches from Leicester Square to Shaftesbury Avenue.
The schedule was quite substantial for Chinese New Year 2013. At Trafalgar Square, Londoners and tourists could admire traditional dancers and acrobats on the big stage. Chinese songs also gave rhythm to the crowd gathered on Sunday afternoon in front of the National Gallery. Aside from the traditional show, visitors could enjoy some Chinese food and purchase traditional items such as red paper lanterns or cuddly dragons. Stalls representing sponsors of this London Chinese New Year 2013 such as the Bank of China were also present on Trafalgar Square.
However the most interesting part probably took place in Chinatown. It was very difficult to fight your way through the big crowd that spent the afternoon in Gerrard Street where dragon parades were closely admired and photographed with a sound background of drums. It also seemed like an assault course to succeed in getting a table at one of Chinatown’s huge quantity of restaurants. People were quite discouraged by the long queues and preferred to enjoy a meal on the go as a lot of stalls were set up in the streets and enticed the visitors with good smells coming from traditional Chinese dishes.People could enjoy Chinese noodles, pork with sweet-and-sour sauce, dim sums such as pork or prawn dumplings and traditional Chinese street food such as the Baozi, these popular buns made of rice paste stuffed with pork or chives and sour cream. Many people also entered the supermarkets to buy pastries, cans of traditional meals, candy, noodles, juices, and also Chinese vegetables and fruits. It was undoubtedly one of the most profitable days for the local shopkeepers.
Visitors then progressively left Chinatown at the end of the afternoon but it was very difficult to circulate in the West End with pavements completely overcrowded, part closures in the Tube and dense traffic on the main arteries, especially on Haymarket and Regent Street.