Manchester’s Chinese community celebrates New Year in new ways during a time of Covid

  • Chinese New Year celebrations have been scaled back in Manchester due to COVID
  • Much of Manchester's Chinese community has had to adapt
  • 2021 is the Year of the Ox, which represents hard work and honesty

As we approach one year of living with coronavirus, festivals – religious and ceremonious alike – have had to adapt to the everchanging government restrictions.

Chinese New Year is no exception, with Covid-19 forcing those who celebrate to find new ways to observe the festival.

In Manchester, celebrations have been dramatically scaled back and the typically vibrant dragon parades that fill the streets of Chinatown have had to be cancelled.

Manchester City Council has tried to bolster optimism as the holiday approaches.

On its official tourism website Visit Manchester states: “Look up though, Manchester will be painted red with our famous red lanterns across the city centre.”

The lanterns have now taken over the city centre, with the public able to see the lights from Market Street to Deansgate and St. Anne’s Square.

trees, lanterns, bike, manchester, city
Manchester’s streets have been filled with lanterns to celebrate Chinese New Year Image: Rory Gannon

However, despite the attempt to adapt the festivities, coronavirus has impacted the Chinese community’s ability to mark the occasion.

Amy Leung, a British-Chinese student, is one of the many members of the Chinese community whose normal plans for the New Year have been dramatically changed by the pandemic.

“Usually for us, there’s about three families in one household and it’s all family getting together because there’s a big emphasis on family in China,” she said.

“Chinese New Year is all about sharing and community, and then all of a sudden – a pandemic happens, and now this sharing and community isn’t shared in the same way anymore.”

woman, smiling, selfie, long black hair, turtle neck
Amy Leung, a British-Chinese student         Image: Amy Leung

Ms Leung said government restrictions have meant her family will not be able to celebrate the festival.

“I don’t think we’re going to be celebrating this year. We’re all in different parts of the country and with lockdown rules being as they are currently, I don’t think I’m going home,” she said.

“Of course, there are other things we can do – we can call and message and have a group call – but it’s not the same.”

Dr. Qi Peng, lecturer in sports business at MMU, expressed sadness at the inability to see loved ones at this special time.

“My perspective as a Chinese person in the UK is a totally different story to people in China”, she said.

“I would usually go to a Chinese restaurant to go for a proper meal and I cannot do that. I can’t hang out with my other Chinese friends and have hot pot together.

“I was a bit sad, just chatting with my family and friends on the phone. But I’m hoping I will be able to go home and celebrate next year.”

With the ringing in of the New Year, we enter the Year of the Ox, which according to Chinese culture, is associated with hard work and honesty.