Chinese New Year is now firmly on the British social calendar with street festivals in cities across the UK, supermarkets running Chinese-themed food promotions, and celebrities offering greetings to mark the arrival of the Year of the Rooster.
According to Xinhua news agency, celebrations in the UK capital city were the biggest outside of Asia with thousands watching a traditional Chinese street parade that moved from London’s Chinatown to Trafalgar Square for a festival of music and dance.
In Manchester a 54-meter long dragon led a parade that went from the city centre to Chinatown where there was a day of traditional Chinese entertainment, more than 6,000 lanterns, street food and fireworks. Liverpool, home to Europe’s oldest Chinatown, hosted a three-day event while street celebrations also took place in Birmingham, Durham, Edinburgh, Leeds and Newcastle.
Most UK supermarkets ran Chinese New Year themed “ready meal” promotions, the cheapest of which was budget store Iceland, that offered a range of classic “UK Chinese takeaway” themed frozen ready meals for slightly more than US$ 1.
VisitBritain, the UK’s tourist office, said Chinese New Year boosted flights from China to Britain by 81 percent for January 2017 compared with the same month last year.
Meantime, the UK media is becoming increasingly obsessed with UK footballers flying in the other direction to join the Chinese Super League, with Wayne Rooney, the Manchester United and England striker, the latest star rumoured to be heading to China.
In 2015, Rooney welcomed in the Year of the Goat by visiting the Wing’s Chinese restaurant in Central Manchester. The eatery has become well-known as a venue popular with Manchester’s affluent footballers and on Rooney’s 2015 visit, he recorded a New Year video message to Manchester United fans in China.
“Hello to all my friends in China” said Rooney at the start of the video. “I wanted to find out more about Chinese New Year so I have come to my favourite restaurant.”
UK newspapers re-ran the two year old video clip during this Lunar New Year holiday, indicating that it had been made in the last few days and was a sign that the English star had now decided to leave England for China on a deal that is worth more than US$ 1 million a week to the 31-year-old.
Manchester United made no comment about the Year of the Rooster or Rooney’s possible departure.