In Australia's Chinatown districts this weekend, the smell of roast duck will waft through the air and the sound of drums and gongs will be heard. It all signals the start of Lunar New Year festivities.
Although Chinese New Year is January 25, the major capitals will host a colourful list of events over the next few weeks. According to the 2016 census, there are about 350,000 Chinese living in greater Melbourne and close to 500,000 in metropolitan Sydney.
The Lunar New Year is also celebrated by our Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese communities - usually with as much noise, colour and eating as possible.
Sydney will kick off the Year of the Rat with parades through Dixon Street in Chinatown, exuberant lion dances and banquets. Here are some of the events you can catch.
Throughout the Sydney Lunar Festival, the famous Golden Century restaurant will have a special banquet menu of seafood and noodle delicacies eaten during this time of the year. Take in a 360-degree view of the city at the Sydney Tower Lunar New Year Buffet with classics such as dim sum, ginger and soy fish, ma po tofu, kung pao chicken as well Hokkien noodles. Several bars and restaurants are offering Lunar New Year specials, so check before booking.
Dragon boat races
More than 3000 dragon-boat racers churn the waters of Darling Harbour as crowds of spectators line Cockle Bay Wharf to see the spectacular 12-metre boats battle it out. The largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, this exciting regatta is held over the first weekend in February. Originating in the rivers of Southern China as a way to encourage prosperous rains, today dragon boat racing has evolved into a fast-paced water sport with a passionate following.
MCA: Guan Wei exhibition
Chinese-Australian artist Guan Wei's unique pieces are an exploration of his Chinese heritage and influences of the West. He works across painting, sculpture and installations, and his unique pieces reflect themes like the human condition and address contemporary issues such as climate change, migration and exile. The exhibition will bring together four pieces of work from the MCA Collection.
Celebrate Lunar New Year Korean-style
"Seollal" is the name for the Korean Lunar New Year and it's a time when families gather together to eat, wish each other good fortune, perform family ceremonies and play folk games. The Korean Cultural Centre in the city centre is holding a special event on February 8 where everyone can learn about Korean traditions. There are food tastings of tteokguk (rice-cake soup), hands-on crafts and a chance to try on a traditional Korean garment, the hanbok. Bookings essential; see koreanculture.org.au.
Out of the city: Parramatta
On February 7, the heart of Western Sydney will be holding a Lunar Festival in Centenary Square, Parramatta. Throughout the evening, there will be cultural performances from Chinese, Vietnamese and South Korean troupes. There will also be workshops on the ancient art of calligraphy, cooking classes, as well as lantern-making classes. Parramatta City will also host a range of food stalls and while you chow down on your chow mein, watch the dragon and lion dances, firecracker displays and a fireworks finale at 9pm.
Walk: Chinatown is a 10-minute walk from Central Station, and it is where most of the festivities will take place. Parramatta's Centenary Square is a five-minute walk from Parramatta Station.
Stay:The Old Clare Hotel in Chippendale is about a 25-minute walk from Chinatown and is priced from $239 per night.
Explore more: whatson.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au
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