2017, the Year of the Rooster. Also the year of my first Chinese New Year celebration. Historically, I would spend this occasion moping around the house, stomach rumbling, annoyed that the local Chinese takeaways had been closed for the day. But that was when I lived in Saintfield, where the Lucky Boat and Beijing House reign supreme.
Now that I live in Manchester, I realise that things are done a little differently. And my girlfriend, Ffion, who I’ve mentioned before (yes, she is real) demanded that we travel into the city centre and “see the parade”. The plan was to watch the parade, view the shows and attractions, possibly try our hands at some arts and crafts, and finish the day off with a large buffet at Peking Court (best Chinese buffet going, by the way), before the fireworks at 6pm.
I must say, I was amazed by how many people turned out for the parade! When I saw the large swathes of people lining the street, I was sure we were in for the parade of a lifetime, rivalling the Disney Light Parade of 1998.
It was smaller than I imagined, and our view was hindered massively by the crowds, who had no time for courtesy, or indeed manners. I’m quite tall, and I was still finding it difficult to see over the top of those in front of me. Though admittedly that was partly due to the fact that any time anything of note happened, everyone would either raise both arms up to take a picture as high as they could, or they’d immediately place a small, often smelly, child onto their shoulders to give them a better view.
We also waited for quite a long time in the freezing cold which didn’t help matters, but eventually the parade got going, a welcome relief to my aching feet, knees, and back (24 going on 80). Three large men (men in much larger men suits) led the parade, turning this way and that to show their comically painted faces to the crowd. They were followed by a number of people in traditional Chinese dress of various forms, a group of girls waving ribbons on the end of sticks, and 4 rather impressive unicyclers. The heartbeat of the parade came next, a large drum, complete with drummer, and 2 guys on the China cymbals, playing a marching beat that was not unlike the hook to Miley Cyrus’ ‘Party in the USA’. Then came the main attraction, the thing everyone was waiting for…the dragon. 2 dragons in fact! Expertly manipulated by teams of young Mancs, while a hype man continuously shouted, “Make some noise, Manchester!”
It was a strong end to a small parade. A parade that had all the hallmarks of a good, classic Chinese parade, but that left you with a longing for more, rightly or wrongly. Would I go again? Possibly. Would I wait that long for that parade again? Definitely not. Still, it was inoffensive, even if it wasn’t the Disney Light Parade of 1998. A nice showing of multinational Manchester.
Our plans were rather scuppered then, as we strolled up towards Chinatown from St. Anne’s Square. The crowds became unmanageable, the attractions proved to be a poorly set up and unconvincing fairground, and the arts and crafts turned out to be 2 small, rickety tables, surrounded by complaining children. So in the end, we rethought, pushed our way through the crowds, and went for an early buffet. I’ve never seen the buffet so busy and we ended up at, by far, the worst table geographically. Stuck right in the back corner! The food was top notch though and there was plenty of it, so it was hard to complain really.
When I think of my Manchester Chinese New Year experience, I can think of 3 pieces of advice to the people of Manchester and the world, who are thinking of coming to the event next year:
1. Turn up later – no matter how early you turn up, you’ll not get a good view anyway
2. Don’t eat at the amazing Peking Court – I want to enjoy my next buffet in relative peace
3. Don’t bring a buggy or pram with you – if you have a child that needs a buggy or a pram, then either leave the child at home or leave the buggy at home. One or the other. Nobody’s ankles were safe!
Follow those bits of advice and you won’t go far wrong!
Xin Nian Kuai Le! (Apparently that’s the right way to say it)