Year of the Snake: Chinese New Year 2013 in Manchester

Susie Stubbs

One of the UK’s biggest Chinese communities celebrates with fireworks, food and a whopper of a dragon.

This is one for the kids: if you have a young family and you’re wondering how to while away the weekend, head into Manchester on Sunday for Chinese New Year. (And if you don’t, may we point you to our ace guide to the best places to eat in Manchester’s Chinatown?) Be warned: it gets busy. Although the Chinatown here is the UK’s second largest, it is nevertheless packed into a small grid of streets that’s only around half a mile across. Last year, the city council reckon anywhere between 50,000 and 70,000 people headed here (that adds up to an awful lot of toddlers), so ditch the buggy, strap small people to your chest and prepare to elbow your way through the epic crowds. And while it is noisy, colourful and likely to be freezing, Chinese New Year in Manchester is inevitably worth it, as a dragon parade, street food, drums, fair ground, market, origami (yes, really) and a 15-minute firework display all await. And all those clashing cymbals and banging drums come with an upside: they’ll drown out the loudest, most childish whinger (and that’s just the adults – boom boom).

While it is noisy, likely to be freezing, and epically busy, Chinese New Year here is inevitably worth it

There is also excellent food on offer, from traditional Chinese to Thai and Vietnamese (the pork buns served up by Ho’s Bakery alone make the trip into town worth it). Festivities begin proper at 1pm, as a procession, which begins at Manchester Town Hall and includes a whopping 175-foot paper Chinese Dragon, winds its way to Chinatown. Fireworks take place at 6pm, which is worth factoring in to your itinerary if you’re planning on taking children who may get tired, cold and/or bored (a diversion into nearby Manchester Art Gallery may prove just the toddler tonic; it’s open 10am-5pm on Sundays). If you’re up at the crack of dawn, head to Albert Square, as stalls, workshops and performances are running from 11am.

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