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Take the train …to the UK’s best free Chinese New Year celebrations

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January 23 2012 marks the beginning of the Chinese Year of the Dragon – and, with free events going on throughout the UK during the 15 day long festival, it’s simple to join in, especially when you travel by train.

Here’s a rundown of just some of the places you can go if you want to enjoy some traditional Chinese New Year festivities for free. And don’t forget to check our journey planner for cheap train tickets before travel – you could make some savings worth celebrating.

Take the train to Liverpool … and celebrate by the Chinese arch

Jump on a train to Liverpool and head to the city’s Chinatown district for a Chinese New Year to remember.

The city’s Imperial Arch (or Chinese Arch) on Nelson Street, just 15 minutes’ walk from Liverpool Lime Street Station, makes the perfect backdrop for the New Year celebrations. It’s the tallest of its kind in Europe and, with 200 dragons amongst its decorative features, it’s a fitting place in which to welcome in 2012.

Highlights of Liverpool’s 2012 Chinese New Year celebrations, which take place on 21 – 22 January, include Tai Chi demonstrations, a fun fair, Chinese New Year Market, Chinese dragon, lion and unicorn dances and a firecracker display.

Traditionally, during the New Year festivities, Chinese people give their children and grandchildren red envelopes containing money – and you could receive a red envelope too – just look out for the Lucky Man at the Liverpool celebrations.

Take the train to Birmingham … for some fire-cracking good fun

Birmingham’s Chinese New Year celebrations take place on Sunday 29 January, at the Arcadian Centre, in the city’s Chinese Quarter. The Arcadian Centre is just 5 minutes’ walk from Birmingham New Street Station – so hop on a train to Birmingham to say goodbye to the Year of the Rabbit and welcome the dragon in style.

The festivities will begin with the ‘Dotting of the Dragon’s Eyes’ ceremony. According to some Chinese traditions, the dragon needs to be awakened, or blessed, before taking part in the parades or entering a Chinese temple – and this is done by painting its irises.

Once the dragon has been awakened, the real partying will kick off – with dragon and lion dances, acrobatic displays, Kung Fu demonstrations and fireworks displays featuring traditional Chinese firecrackers.

The city’s Hurst Street will be also closed to traffic and lined with stalls selling Chinese handicrafts, food and more.

Leap onto a train to London … for Chinese tradition in Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square is the place to be for a right old knees-up – Chinese-style – on January 29 2012. So jump aboard a train to London and check out the capital’s colourful Chinese New Year Parade.

Catch the Chinese floats and entertainers (although hopefully the acrobats will catch each other) as they parade through the city’s West End – the parade kicks off at 10 a.m., passing through Chinatown, Shaftesbury Avenue, Charing Cross Road and Rupert Street, before ending up in Trafalgar Square at midday.

There’ll then be an official opening ceremony, followed by music and dance performances – and you can also see more on the Shaftesbury Avenue stage or in Chinatown itself.

Race off to Southampton by rail … to see the Dragon Dance

Southampton is the perfect place to celebrate the Chinese New Year if the weather’s a bit grim – as the festivities take place indoors.

The city’s ‘Chinese New Year Celebration’ will take place at West Quay Shopping Centre on Sunday 29th January – so take the train to Southampton and you can indulge in a bit of retail therapy and stop off for a bite to eat in one of the centre’s restaurants, as well as welcoming our fire-breathing friend.

West Quay Shopping Centre is in the heart of the city centre, just a few minutes’ walk from Southampton Central Station, so it’s easy to get to, and there’ll be plenty going on, with traditional Chinese folk dancing, musical performances and the Dragon Dance parade to enjoy.

A Chinese New Year Market will also take place in the precinct outside of West Quay shopping centre on the 28th and 29th of January.

Make the train journey to Manchester … for spectacular celebrations

In 2011, Manchester’s Chinese New Year celebrations attracted more than 65,000 people – and this year, the city is planning to put on an even bigger show. So jump on the train to Manchester and see in the New Year at the biggest Chinese festival in the North.

The main events take place on 29th January in Chinatown and Albert Square and you can stroll around the market stalls, and see musical and dance performances, including the high pole lion dance performance – one of the highlights of Manchester’s festivities. And at 6pm, the fireworks begin – so wrap up warm and enjoy some explosive entertainment.

Where will you be welcoming in the Year of the Dragon? Let us know…

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