Chinese New Year: Something to crow about

January 23, 2017

This year, millions of Australians will ring in the Chinese New Year and the Year of the Rooster during January and February. From thrilling dragon-boat races on Sydney Harbour and the Yarra River, to lion dancers, traditional Chinese music, spectacular parades and fireworks, it’s one of the biggest Lunar New Year events outside of Asia.

In Sydney, the best way to experience the richness of the pageants and parades is to find a table at one of the many restaurants that spill onto Chinatown’s Dixon Street Mall. While you’re enjoying some of the city’s finest Chinese food, you can be entertained by the colour, the drama and the noisy clash of cymbals as lion dancers weave their way through the crowds.

On the weekend of February 11 and 12, you should head to Darling Harbour, where some 3000 paddlers will participate in the largest dragon boat race held in the southern hemisphere.

From January 27 to 29, some of the city’s major landmarks will be bathed in red (the symbol of happiness and good fortune in Chinese culture), including the Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Town Hall and State Library. During the 16-day program from January 27 to February 12, a dozen 10-metre-high zodiac animal lanterns will inhabit Circular Quay and surrounds, and more than 1000 performers will entertain audiences in Martin Place and Customs House Square.

In Brisbane, the Lunar New Year celebrations centre around the Chinatown Mall in Fortitude Valley. From 5pm to 10pm on January 28, there’ll be lion dancers, fire shows, traditional music, cultural performances, Asian market stalls, roving street performers and a special Chinese New Year parade. Highlights will include stilt walkers, ribbon dancers, workshops and a firecracker show to scare off the evil spirits.

Celebrations continue the next day from noon to 5pm, when the mall hosts a pan-Asian Lunar experience with performances by a Vietnamese dance group, Japanese drumming troupe, Balinese mask dancers and an indigenous Taiwanese dance ensemble.

Like Sydney, Melbourne’s festivities run from January 27 to February 12, with a huge program of events across the city. The banks and bridges along the Yarra will be the place to be on February 4 and 5 to enjoy the spectacular dragon boat races, while on January 28, there’ll be a day of music, performances and crafts at Federation Square from 10am to 5pm.

The Queen Victoria Market Precinct will be the setting for fireworks displays and visitors will be able to receive a special message of prosperity from the Hongbao (red envelope) wall. The summer night markets will feature a program of entertainment, including lion dancers, martial arts and firecracker displays.

Melbourne ups the cultural ante with performances by drumming ensemble Taikoz, the National Ballet of China and the Chinese Music Orchestra.

In Perth, meanwhile, the 10 days of celebration centre around Elizabeth Quay, home to a street-food market, plenty of cultural performances, tai chi classes and two highlights: an interactive wall of lanterns and giant light-up Chinese zodiac animals.

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