I wasn’t lucky enough to attend this year, but I have been in the past, and I have always been struck by the sheer number of people lining the streets, eager to see the colours and the pageantry and have a share in some one else’s tradition.
That’s one of the good things about London: it is truly international, and I have also been to a festival in celebration of the Russian New Year in the past. But you don’t need to attend special events to get a flavour of London’s multi-culturalism. Brick Lane in the East End has street signs in the wonderfully artistic Bengali script as well as in English; a ride on a London bus is sufficient to hear Russian, Polish, French, and Urdu spoken, and there are pockets of London where the shops and temples bear witness to the origins of the people living there. Southall is a wonderful example of this.
I have always considered myself privileged to live here and to have people from other walks of life and other cultures as my friends. A little while back, I was asked to help with the flowers for a Chinese wedding, and, in a way, this straddled two cultures. There were elements which were very definitely Chinese, such as the bride’s beautiful red and gold dress emblazoned with roses and an exotic oriental bird. But, despite the fact that China is now a large consumer of European wines, I felt that the copious amounts of Moët Chandon champagne were distinctly a western touch. My own attempt to bridge the two cultures was one of Prince’s horse shoes, which I had sprayed gold and garnished with a red ribbon – gold to symbolise freedom from wordly cares, red for good luck.
And one final note on Chinese New Year: Pony Tricks is still free in honour of the Year of the Horse!