Where to Celebrate the Year of the Rooster in Australia

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Jan 10, 2017

by CATHERINE MARSHALL, Writer

This is an auspicious year indeed, marking the 21st anniversary of Sydney’s annual Chinese New Year event. It’s a 17-day festival during which the streets erupt with merriment, reflecting the rich and vibrant heritage of the city’s Asian community.

Sydney will ring in the Year of the Rooster with a program worthy of this flamboyant, preening creature. Festival curator Claudia Chan Shaw has unveiled a program packed with food, art, music, dance and endless cultural activities – one that blends her own Chinese heritage with that of the multicultural city in which she was born: Sydney. Here’s where you can see the best of what the city has on offer. For the full program, visit sydneychinesenewyear.com.

SEE ALSO: The Best Chinese Restaurants in Australia

FOOD

The Night Market

Kylie Kwong, the celebrated chef behind lauded Chinese restaurant Billy Kwong in Potts Point, curates Sydney Festival’s Night Market so you can expect big things. Set aside an evening to wander the 50 stalls representing contemporary Asia, including some of Sydney’s favourite restaurants – Eleven Bridge and No. 1 Bent Street among them.

When: January 28
Where: Carriageworks, 245 Wilson Street, Eveleigh

Chinese New Year Buffet Dinner

Settle in for a feast of seafood, noodles and regional Chinese specialties such as honey-glazed barbecue pork at the Shangri-La Hotel, one of Sydney’s iconic harbourside establishments.

When: January 27-February 4
Where: Café Mix, Shangri-La Hotel, 176 Cumberland Street, The Rocks

Lunar Lantern Hub

CBD thoroughfare Martin Place transforms during Chinese New Year into a magical space under a canopy of glowing red lanterns, with pop-up food stalls and a DJ. To round off the evening, enjoy a game of mahjong in the Fortune Mahjong Garden, organised by The Star hotel and casino. February 3 offers “massaoke” (a huge singalong for all visitors to the hub), as well as live music and dance.

When: January 27-February 12
Where: Martin Place, Sydney CBD

Lunar Markets

Tuck into satay sticks, dumplings and fried rice and relax under the light of Chinese lanterns at this pop-up food festival, a sumptuous celebration of Asian dishes.

When: January 26-February 5
Where: Pyrmont Bay Park, Pyrmont 

MahJong Room Year of the Rooster Banquet

A healthy appetite is required for this traditional Chinese feast, which comprises eight courses. Sit in the general dining area or, for a more intimate experience, book one of MahJong’s two private dining rooms.

When: January 23-February 11
Where: MahJong Room, 312 Crown Street, Surry Hills

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Burger Project

For a clever twist on the usual celebratory fare, head to much-loved eatery Burger Project, which adds new items to the menu in recognition of Chinese New Year. If past creations are anything to go by, you’re in for a treat – think crumbed-pork burger with cucumber, Asian slaw, lettuce, hoi sin and sesame; salt and Sichuan pepper chips (now a menu staple); and lychee iced tea.

When: Throughout February
Where: All outlets around Sydney

ART

Painting the Town Red

Have your cameras ready as the city’s most famous landmarks – including the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House, Circular Quay Station and Sydney Town Hall – are illuminated in glowing red to welcome in the Year of the Rooster.

When: January 27-29
Where: Sydney CBD

Lunar Lanterns

Follow the lantern trail around Circular Quay. Twelve lanterns – some as high as 10 metres and designed by contemporary Asian-Australian artists – will lead you through the Chinese zodiac. The rooster-shaped lanterns lighting up the Sydney Opera House and Dixon Street in Chinatown are must-sees.

When: January 27-February 12
Where: Circular Quay and Chinatown

Rickshaw Tales

Jump aboard a customised, artist-commissioned rickshaw for a curated tour through Chinatown. A special family program will take place on the weekend of February 4.

When: January 28-February 14
Where: 4a Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, 181-187 Hay Street, Sydney

Auspicious Symbols

Take a tour of the Art Gallery of NSW’s collections to discover the words and symbols that will bring good fortune and happiness, among other things, in the Year of the Rooster. English, Mandarin and Cantonese language guides will facilitate free tours.

When: Various dates, January 28-February 23; check the website for times.
Where: Art Gallery of NSW, Art Gallery Road (The Domain), Sydney

PERFORMANCE 

Lion dances

Enjoy the colour, music and humour of Sydney’s beloved lion dances, organised by the Dixon Street Chinese Committee.

When: Various weekend dates, January 8-29
Where: Chinatown

Dragon boat races

Join thousands of other New Year revellers around Cockle Bay – or, better still, snare a spot on Pyrmont Bridge – and watch more than 3000 paddlers churn up the water during the biggest dragon boat race in the Southern Hemisphere.

When: February 11- 12
Where: Darling Harbour

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Guqin performance

Be enchanted by the gentle, meditative sounds of the guqin in this serene pocket of nature located close to Chinatown.

When: 2pm-2.30pm, January 29
Where: Chinese Garden of Friendship, Darling Harbour

Laughter by the Lake

Enhance your balance during an ancient Chinese practice that entails rhythmic clapping and laughter exercises. Fifteen-minute sessions are scheduled for 2.30pm, 3pm and 3.30pm, with a last laugh around the lake with drums and dragons at 4.30pm.

When: February 12
Where: Chinese Garden of Friendship, Darling Harbour

Live music

Relax to the strains of contemporary music played by Marcus Whale, a Chinese-Australian musician. Whale – who is one half of pop duo Collarbones – will perform new music, supported by a string section.

When: February 12
Where: Art Gallery of NSW, Art Gallery Road (The Domain), Sydney

Music under the Moon

Tan Dun (of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon fame) conducts the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in a musical performance that rounds off the New Year celebrations. The program includes Dun’s Passacaglia, featuring mobile phones playing Chinese bird calls, and The Secret Songs of Women, which celebrates Nu Shu – an ancient, private language passed from mothers to daughters through song.

When: February 11
Where: Sydney Opera House Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point

Tours

The Karaoke Climb

Sing your heart out in the world’s most stunning karaoke booth: the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. With K-Pop, Chinese and Western songs at the ready, you’ll be given an eight-second video clip to show off back home. All commentary is in Mandarin and the climb takes a little over two hours.

When: January 21-March 6
Where: BridgeClimb Sydney, 3 Cumberland Street, The Rocks

Chinese New Year Around Australia

How the other capital cities are celebrating…

Melbourne

The Melbourne Chinatown Chinese New Year Festival runs from January 23 to 29, with performances, installations and, of course, topnotch food. Highlights include an outdoor cinema, performances by stand-up comedians and the world’s largest dragon, which will roam the streets of Chinatown on the festival’s main celebration day, January 29.

SEE ALSO: The Best Al Fresco Restaurants in Australia

Perth

Record crowds are expected again at the 2017 Perth Chinese New Year Fair, to be held from January 28 to February 12. Visitors will be entertained with street performances, food stalls and cultural experiences, including a costume dress-up photo booth and a games and ride alley set up on a city street. The 2017 Chinese New Year Fashion Festival – China Musings: A Fashion Journey – presented by the Office of Multicultural Interests in collaboration with Fashion Council WA, will explore the influence of Chinese aesthetics on Australian fashion.

Canberra

The capital will ring in the New Year on January 28 with lion-dance performances but revellers will have to wait for the city’s main Chinese New Year celebrations: they’ll centre on the Chinese Spring Festival event, held as part of the National Multicultural Festival from February 17 to 19. The festival will include food, art, craft and cultural displays and performances by international dance troupes.

Brisbane

Brisbane will celebrate its vibrant, multicultural identity at its popular Fortitude Valley Chinese Lunar New Year Festival on January 28 and 29. The main event takes place in the Chinatown Mall, where people enjoy festivities including lion dances, fire crackers, traditional music, cultural performances, Asian market stalls, interactive workshops and a special Chinese New Year parade to mark the Year of the Rooster.

Darwin

Though Chinese New Year occurs during the Top End’s wet season, the crowds brave the monsoon for the annual Shop Lion Blessing (February 4, 5, 11 and 12), during which the Lion Dance Troupe performs the ritual blessing of Chinese and other multicultural businesses throughout the city and surrounding suburbs. The spectacle includes the thrumming of Chinese drums, clanging of gongs and cymbals and the explosion of firecrackers.

Adelaide

Everyone is invited to Adelaide’s Chinatown Lunar New Year Street Party on February 4. A stage will be set up in Chinatown for cultural performances, while the streets will come alive with an assortment of stalls, exhibitions and activities that showcase the rich culture of Adelaide’s Asian community.

Hobart

Festivities kick off on January 29 with a Lunar New Year Festival on the lawns of Parliament House – expect lion dances, firecrackers, cultural displays and performances – and continue until February 12. Highlights include a Chinese orchestral concert and an exhibition of emerging Chinese video artists.

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