Vibrant, entertaining and exciting: that’s what a Chinese New Year celebration should be.
So how do you create that atmosphere, in way that’s authentic, respectful, inclusive and welcoming?
Check out what happened when the China Institute at the University of Birmingham held their sold-out Chinese New Year concert at the Bramall.
Bright colours and elaborate trimmings: it’s probably the first element that springs to mind. Bringing the right atmosphere is simple, now traditional decorations are easy to find around the world. Chinese New Year is celebrated with the auspicious colour red, with gold and green elements. It’s seen in lanterns, streamers, and distinctive fabric tassels.
You might see red envelopes, too: these are given on certain days of the festival as gifts, with money inside. Fireworks are always part of the celebration too. The team brought a touch of that sparkle indoors, with these splendid firework-style decorations.
Just be careful when you’re displaying any writing if you’re not a Chinese speaker yourself. Pairs of spring festival couplets (vertical strips of characters) have a left and right side, while Fu characters must be hung upside-down to create the dual meanings ‘happiness’ and ‘arrival’.
Food and drink
Authentic food is an essential when you’re celebrating a particular culture. That means a canape menu that’s themed appropriately. For the evening, the catering team from Conferences & events created sesame prawn toast, mini pots of stir-fried vegetable and tofu rice, steamed shrimp dumplings and many more. Mocktails were also served in vibrant colours: lime and rosemary, and elferflower presse topped with fruits.
Fortune cookies add a fun element to any party, and are great for stimulating conversation.
This area grew quite a crowd, keeping visitors happy and entertained before the concert began – especially the younger guests.
Music and performance
A truly memorable Chinese New Year gathering needs to honour Chinese culture: from music to dance, costumed theatre to distinctive instruments. It’s best to be guided by an expert here, and the team were fortunate to have top-class musician Di Xiao on board to bring together a spectacular line-up, featuring herself on piano, Jiaxin Lloyd Webber on cello, face-changing artist Dan Du and many more.
Of course, choosing the right venue is essential. For this concert, the China Institute needed somewhere prestigious with a grand piano, great acoustics, and plenty of backstage space for artists. The audience needed a relaxing, welcoming environment to enjoy reception drinks and canapes, with plenty of space to circulate but still a feeling of intimacy. It needed to be accessible. And, since demand for a seat would be very high, there had to be a robust system that made it easy to register for tickets.
The Bramall is the ideal space for a celebration like this: grand enough to be suitably splendid, intimate enough to feel special. The decorations extended to the exterior of the building too, with red and gold uplighting bringing some New Year joy to Chancellor’s Court, at the heart of the university campus.
No one in the area could fail to know about the purpose of the concert, thanks to the University of Birmingham clock tower. ‘Old Joe’, as it’s affectionately known, was lit red for the evening.
The China Institute’s Chinese New Year concert 2018 was a triumph, with a packed house of invited guests and members of the public.
Keen to know more about Chinese New Year? Find out how and why it’s celebrated around the world, and right here in Birmingham.
Photographs of the event by Nicola Gotts Photography.