10 of the best events on in Sydney for Chinese New Year

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Chinese New Year celebrations kicked off on Friday, February 16.

The Lunar New Year is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays

It’s celebrated on the first Monday of the first month on the Lunar calendar, which is based on the moon’s orbit, rather than the western Gregorian calendar, which is based on the earth’s orbit and is also important to people from South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

2018 is the Year of the Dog and those born in 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, and 2006 are also under the dog zodiac.

According to the Asian zodiac, your year of birth — and the animal this represents — determines a lot about your personality traits. Here’s how you can find out your own zodiac, as well as what it means.

The celebrations are based on a legend that says an evil, mythical beast called “Nian” comes out and eats people on Chinese New Year. it’s only fears are loud noises and the colour red, so celebrants light firecrackers, crack bamboo sticks, carry flaming torches, wear red clothing and dance in the streets to fend him off and bring good fortune for the future.

Sydney is putting on the largest celebration of the Lunar New Year outside of Asia. Around 1.4 million people are expected to attend 80 art, culture, food and sporting events that run until March 4.

With so much on, we’ve picked out a few highlights.

Opening night at the Sydney Opera House

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The massive official launch party at Sydney Opera House starts from 6pm and will incorporate roving performances, lion dancers, the lighting of the twelve zodiac lanterns and fireworks.

Guide Dog activities, including the guide dog graduation ceremony, and model guide dog art installation

Photo: SuppliedFestival curator Claudia Chan Shaw, Councillor Robert Kok, Lord Mayor Clover Moore and Dale Cleaver, CEO of Guide Dogs NSW.

A bunch of activities are happening around the city for the Guide Dogs Association of NSW/ACT, which is the charity partner for this year’s festival.

On Saturday February 17 from 10am – 3pm in Pitt Street Mall, for a $10 donation you can have your photo taken with a guide dog puppy, which will be printed for you in a commemorative 2018 Year of the Dog frame, with all proceeds going to support the training of these life-changing dogs.

On the same day from 5.30pm, head to the Community Performance stage at First Fleet Park, for the cutest graduation ceremony you might ever see.

The latest puppy recruits from NSW and the ACT will graduate from two years of Guide Dog training, and receive their harnesses.

Make sure you visit the guide dogs merchandise stand at the ceremony for cute puppy merchandise, and to enter a competition to win a trip to Hawaii.

A model guide dog art installation will be open at Scout Place in Alfred Street in the CBD throughout the festival. Sixty colourful dog sculptures will line Alfred Street (outside the AMP Building) and outside Customs House. Visitors can vote for their favourite painted dog with a gold coin donation. Following the exhibition, selected dogs will go under the hammer at a charity auction to raise vital funds for Guide Dogs NSW/ACT to assist people who are blind or vision impaired.

Asian cuisine

SuppliedNew Shanghai’s ‘Make me rich’ dumplings

If you only eat one thing during Chinese New Year, make it yum cha. It’s a tapas-style brunch where servers bring small plates of various nibbles to your table and you pick and choose what you like. There are so many different varities of yum cha, such as dumplings, vegetables, meat dishes, and desserts, that is can get quite confusing. So we’ve put together a guide on how to navigate it to help you out.

In Sydney, many Asian restaurants will have special Chinese New Year set menus and food specials. Check them out here.

Our pick is New Shanghai, which will be bringing delicious dumplings to an all-you-can-eat dumpling extravaganza called “Dumplings in the Sky” at the Sydney Tower Eye. For $40 you can stuff yourself silly forty levels up, while looking out over the celebrations on the streets below.

You can try their new special Chinese New Year dumpling called the “make me rich” dumpling, filled with ingredients designed to bring good luck.

If after a big night out celebrating Chinese New Year you find yourself peckish, Golden Century restaurant in Sussex Street is open until 4am every morning.

Lunar lantern light installment


Twelve giant lanterns designed by Australian artists, with festival curator Claudia Chan Shaw depicting the twelve Chinese zodiacs will be erected around the foreshore of Circular Quay, the Opera House and The Overseas Passenger Terminal.

Five of these are brand-new this year. The dragon is the biggest one, which stands at thirteen metres high. The pig lantern is made up of one thousand smaller pigs which you can see at Cadman’s Cottage in The Rocks.

Chinese markets

Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

It helps to keep an open mind to try all the delicious, unusual cuisine that you could find at the nights markets at Chinese New Year down Dixon Street and the side streets in the area.

Try the dragon beard candy, which isn’t as grotesque as it sounds. It’s a whole lot of thin sugar strands wrapped around a special filling of shredded coconut, peanuts and sesame. There will also also teppanyaki, sushi, bibimbap and pho.

Matcha fans rejoice, because on Friday nights, the markets in Little Hay Street will feature a variety of delicious green tea desserts and sweets.

Find the Ayam truck inamongst the stalls, and grab yourself some delicious food samples, and play the zodiac roulette game which uses an algorithm to discover your ideal Asian dish, matched to your combined Chinese and western Zodiac signs.

Community Performance Program and Lunar Spectacular Show

Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night from 6 – 8pm during the festival, performers from twenty-one performance groups around Sydney will put on the Lunar Spectacular Show on an outdoor stage at First Fleet Park in The Rocks.

There will be traditional Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai and Indonesian dancing, Korean drumming, Japanese hip hop, stilt walking, choir performances, opera, classical music, fashion shows, tai chi and kung fu demonstrations.

Chinese delegates’ performances

Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

A delegation of twenty-two performers from the Henan province in China will entertain crowds on Saturday February 24 and Sunday February 25 on the Community Performance Stage at First Fleet Park in The Rocks. The delegation comprises of three performance groups –- Shaolin monks demonstrating superior kung fu moves, a traditional folk music band and a Chinese dance group.

Dragon boat races

Greg Wood/AFP/Getty Images

Three thousand people have already signed up to participate in the annual dragon boat races on Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 February at Cockle Bay and Darling Harbour. It’s the biggest dragon boat race in the southern hemisphere. There will be more than 100 races running every 10 minutes each day.

The races incorporate sports and corporate club races, charity races and radio station WSFM’s hosts Amanda Keller and Brendan ‘Jonesy’ Jones who will compete in a celebrity dragon boat race on the Saturday.

Chinatown celebrations

Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

Chinatown is the hub of Chinese New Year. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night at 6 and 6.30pm, Chinese crackers will be set off, and drummers will accompany lion dancers as they weave through the streets.

Australian premiere of Stalker Theatre’s Frameshift


Korean “vertical performance” group Creative Dandi and B-boys, Drifterzcrew join Australian physical theatre company Stalker Theatre to create this visually stunning and mind-bending outdoor show. It’s a combination of aerial circus tricks, high-flying dance, hip hop, and video projection.

Performers work around a three-story high oval-shaped scaffold, and seem to defy gravity as they climb through it, under it, over it and hang, bat-like from it.

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