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‘A sad time for us’: lunar year of the ox festivities felled by Covid

Businesses in London’s Chinatown fear for their future as lunar new year celebrations go virtual

Alan Lau’s family business is one of the oldest in London’s Chinatown. Since the 1970s, the Wen Tai Sun art and crafts store in Soho has supplied decorations for the lunar new year, the most important festive holiday for Chinese people around the world. “Usually this would be the pinnacle of our trading year,” he said.

But last week was “scarily quiet” in Chinatown. Every year the area hosts the biggest lunar new year celebrations outside Asia, a massive tourist attraction for domestic and international visitors. Lau, whose shop supplies restaurants, supermarkets and schools around the country, would normally have sold about 150 boxes of paper dragons for events across the UK’s Chinatowns, from Newcastle to London. This year, he’s sold about 20. “It’s just felt very flat, you wouldn’t have known it was lunar new year,” he said.

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