Kick off the Year of the Rat in the Scottish capital, with ceilidh dancing, larger-than-life art installations, language tasters and more
Known for their charming nature and spirited wit, those born under the sign of the Rat will have extra reason to celebrate their astrological year in 2020, as the capital prepares to usher in Chinese New Year with a dynamic cultural programme to be found throughout the city.
The larger-than-life lantern spectacular returns to light up Edinburgh Zoo as Giant Lanterns: Lost Worlds (until Sun 26 Jan) transports visitors back 570 million years into Earth's pre-history. Come face-to-face with dinosaurs, beasts of the Ice Age and forgotten megafauna in this spectacular display of over 600 beautifully crafted lanterns. The zoo will also be hosting a Chinese New Year Reception to start the year on the right foot, with the date yet to be determined. Another welcome return to this year's programme is the Edinburgh Official Chinese New Year Concert (Tue 21 Jan), which will take place beneath the hallowed dome of Usher Hall and showcase the talents of the Guizhou Song and Dance Troupe.
Edinburgh Official Chinese New Year Concert
The Confucius Institute of Scotland will be running a dynamic roster of events highlighting the country's many cultural treasures, including a useful primer on Chinese New Year phrases, tales and rituals for the uninitiated at their Glimpse Into Chinese New Year (Thu 23 Jan) workshop. As Burns Night and Chinese New Year have fortuitously aligned for 2020, the Institute will also be launching the third edition of the Mandarin translation of Burns' Selected Poems alongside a selection of original calligraphy at the Burns Poetry Launch and Calligraphy Exhibition (Thu 23 Jan). Or try your hand at learning the language yourself at their Free Language Taster (Tue 28 Jan) and master the essential phrases in time for their Chinese New Year Party (Fri 31 Jan), which promises heaps of dumplings, games of mahjong and Chinese chess, karaoke and more.
Holyrood Distillery also does its bit to build cultural bridges between Scotland and China with its Chinese New Year celebrations (Thu 23 Jan–Sun 2 Feb), which fuses homages to the Ploughman Poet with Chinese traditions, such as themed tastings of whisky and gin, red envelope gifts and more. Another alcohol purveyor keen for a bit of Asian fusion is Bellfield Brewery, who will be hosting a series of Celebration Feasts (Thu 23–Sun 26 Jan), which blends Chinese culinary tastes with the best of Scotland's natural larder, alongside live poetry readings and music. Hotel Chocolat will also be uniting taste buds at their Tartan Meets Tradition Chocolat Lock Ins (Mon 20; Wed 22; Fri 24; Sat 25 Jan), which will see participants sample a range of their divine chocolate concoctions.
Burns Poetry Launch and Calligraphy Exhibition
Museums across Edinburgh will also be joining in the revelry, with the National Museum of Scotland encouraging the wee ones to get involved at their Family Activity Day (Sat 25 Jan). From calligraphy and envelope-making to fancy dress sessions, there's hands-on fun for the whole family across the museum's collections, as well as the chance to witness the majestic Lion Dance. Closing the day will be their Celebrating Chinese New Year & Burns Night: A Musical Finale (Sat 25 Jan), which sees traditional musicians from both China and Scotland perform a medley of songs.
The Museums in Mandarin and Collections in Cantonese teams will be hosting a Chinese New Year Spotlight Series at St Cecilia's and the Anatomical Museum (Fri 24 & Sat 25 Jan), as well as marking the very welcome return of Bilingual Ceilidhs (Fri 24 & Sat 25 Jan) over at St Cecilia's, with the chance for Chinese visitors to experience the sweaty, breathless fun of being flung across a room. St Cecilia's will also be hosting a musical feast with their Celebration of Chinese Culture (Sat 1 Feb), which will showcase a vibrant selection of music, song, poetry and dance across a diverse range of styles.
Lion Dance at the National Museum of Scotland's Family Activity Day
Speaking of concerts in atmospheric venues, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh will see the Scottish Confucius Institute for Business and Communication at Heriot Watt University play host to the Rainbow Melodies troupe from Tianjin University of Finance and Economics at the 2020 Year of the Rat Celebration Concert (Thu 6 Feb). The troupe will perform a programme of traditional Chinese folk music on the erhu, Chinese zither, drumes, pipa and suona horn. Mercat Tours will also be hosting a special edition of their Royal Mile tour (Sat 25 & Sun 26 Jan; Sat 1 & Sun 2 Feb), which will see storytellers weave tales from previous Years of the Rat that have proved seminal to Scotland's rich history.
For those looking to get a bit of shopping in during this auspicious time of the year, the Scottish Textiles Showcase (Tron Kirk, Mon 20 Jan–Sun 2 Feb) will feature a selection of Scottish-made cashmere, tartan and tweed, alongside a few items specially designed for the Year of the Rat. Guests can enjoy a wee dram while browsing and chat tasting notes with whisky writer Tom Bruce-Gardyne. Or join the rat race at John Lewis' Race for the Rats (Sat 25 Jan), which will see shoppers put their rat-like intelligence to the test in order to sniff out the lucky envelopes of John Lewis & Partners gift vouchers which have been stashed away around the store.
Chinese New Year, various venues: Edinburgh, until Thu 6 Feb.
Chinese New Year celebration, hosted by the Asian Association of Commerce, Culture and Education in Europe. Featuring music from the Edinburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Edinburgh Singers, as well as Chinese folk pieces performed by Chinese artists.
The Scotch Whisky Experience is going red for Chinese New Year, and Silver and Gold whisky tours are available in Mandarin and Cantonese. Scottish tapas with a Chinese twist are being served, and a whisky cocktail celebrating both Chinese New Year and Burns Night will be served.