Happy (Chinese) New Year

Monday, February 8, 2016, marks the beginning of Chinese New Year 4714,

the year of the Fire Monkey.

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Part of the fun of living in an international city is the chance to dip into other cultures from time to time.  In the past, we’ve been to Trafalgar Square to watch the Chinese New Year festivities and then take a short walk over to Chinatown to eat Chinese food in style.

This year, we ventured to Chiswick, a district of West London that feels almost suburban despite its proximity to the city.  The English Heritage listed Chiswick House & Gardens hosted the luminous Magical Lantern Festival, a spectacular artistic installation of beautifully sculpted lanterns taking various forms from animals and birds to buildings and abstract lantern designs of all shapes and sizes.

We were lucky to stroll the property on a relatively mild evening with clear skies and gentle winter breezes.  We wandered down paths simulating a starry night …

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…and walked through colorful fanciful gardens.

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Legend has it that in ancient times, Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve came, and Buddha named a year after each one. He announced that the people born in each animal’s year would have some of that animal’s personality traits. Those born in monkey years are often fun, energetic, curious, and mischievous.

Animals lanterns were mixed in a bizarre safari of sorts, in which panda bears rubbed shoulders with giraffes and kangaroos…

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…Frogs kept company with flamingoes and peacocks along the pond…

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…While a giant duck silently stared at its reflection.

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A surreal jellyfish glowed nearby giant ornate elephants…

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…And traditional dragons and ancient Chinese guards kept watch over the whole wild bunch!

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In China, the New Year is a time of family reunion. Family members gather at each other’s homes for visits and shared meals, most significantly a feast on New Year’s Eve.  We kept with tradition and found a fabulous restaurant in Chiswick, La Trompette, where we feasted in style.

It was a great night of family, festivity, food and fun.

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

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