The Chinese New Year (CNY) festivities for 2011 are just around the corner to herald in the Year of the Rabbit.
For those of us hit hard by the GFC, who already live on a tight budget, or are just generally tight arses thrift conscious, there are plenty of things to do and see during this festive period.
Read on for the heart of food’s Freebies Guide to Sydney’s CNY 2011.
The City of Sydney usually goes gangbusters this time of the year with the number and scale of festivals and activities held to celebrate CNY, which seems to be referred to more as Lunar New Year nowadays.
I presume this is to be more inclusive and sensitive to other nationalities celebrations of the same event, in the same way people are wishing each other Happy Holidays than the more traditional Merry Christmas. Since the origins of the festivities and the lunar calendar that they are based around are all of Chinese origin, I’m sticking with the traditional name.
Some of the free festivals and activities in and around the city area you may want to consider during this CNY festive period are:
Official Launch – Fri. 28 Jan. 6pm-8pm; Belmore Park, Central (near Eddy Ave. opposite Central Station).
The official launch of the 2011 CNY celebrations kick off with fireworks to scare off the previous year’s misfortunes (and perhaps an unsuspecting infant or two), Wudang martial arts demonstration, various singing & musical performances, as well as competitions and giveaways by SBS PopAsia radio.
CNY Markets – Fri. 28 Jan. 4pm-10pm, Sat. 29 & Sun. 30 Jan. 11am-10pm; Belmore Park, Central (near Eddy Ave. opposite Central Station).
Along with the official launch, and for the following couple of days after, the CNY Markets plays host to stalls of food, cooking demonstrations, cultural displays & activities, arts & crafts, more Wudang martial arts demos and even a karaoke competition, among many other activities.
Twilight Parade – Sun. 6 Feb. 7:45pm-9:45pm; Town Hall to Chinatown and then onto Cockle Bay, Darling Harbour for a fireworks display.
A procession of floats, dragons, people on stilts or donning traditional costumes, martial arts demonstrations (the poor Wudang clan have their work cut out for them), musical performances, magicians pulling theme-appropriate animals out of their hats and much more, all make their way from Town Hall to Chinatown.
The evening is capped off with a fireworks display over Cockle Bay in Darling Harbour.
Chinese Garden of Friendship Open Day – Sun. 6 Feb. 9:30am-5pm; Corner of Harbour & Pier Sts, Southern Darling Harbour.
Visit the Chinese Gardens, a symbol of the close bond of friendship between Sydney and the Chinese city of Guangzhou. Queues are expected due to the number of visitors. This should give you ample opportunity to practice your cultivation of a stoic calmness.
Dragon Boat Races – Sat. 12 & Sun. 13 Feb. 8am-5pm both days; Cockle Bay, Darling Harbour.
Watch the excitement of fleets of dragon boats, long enough to accommodate up to 20 rowers and a drummer, racing against each other on the waters of Cockle Bay. An “awakening” ceremony to bring the dragon boats to life commences 10:30am on Saturday 12th, prior to the start of the first race.
There are also quite a number of low cost activities as well, a number of which are less than $10 per person. For more information regarding these activities, further free activities and other information regarding the festivities held by the City of Sydney, check out their CNY website.
Whilst the lion’s share of the CNY activities are located in or around the city, there are also a number of suburban festivals held during this time, predominantly in areas with a large Chinese or Asian community.
Some suburban festivals you may want to check out are (in alphabetical order by suburb):
Bankstown – Sat. 29 Jan. 10am-3pm; Bankstown City Plaza, Chapel Road South, Bankstown.
Burwood – Sat. 12 Feb. 5pm-9pm; Burwood Park, Burwood.
Cabramatta Sat. 29 & Sun 30 Jan. 9am-5pm both days; Freedom Plaza, Cabramatta.
Chatswood – Sat. 12 Feb. 10am – 4pm; Chatswood Mall, Victoria Ave, Chatswood.
Hurstville – Sat. 29 Jan. time unspecified; Forest Rd, Hurstville.
Parramatta – Fri. 11 Feb. “All day”; Church St South, Parramatta.
Ryde – Thur. 3 Feb to 15 Feb.; Times and locations vary depending on the specific festival, though predominantly held at Eastwood Plaza, Rowe St, Eastwood.
Strathfield – Fri. 4 Feb. 10am-1pm; The Crescent, Homebush West.
Click on the hyperlink for each suburb for more information, especially in the case of Ryde Council’s numerous festivities. Though be warned, some council’s information regarding the details of the festivities are woefully lacking.
This is by no means a comprehensive list. Odds are if a council area has a large Asian population, there will be some sort of CNY festival. Check with the relevant council for more information if it’s not on the above list.
Hope you enjoy the coming festivities and a Happy Chinese (Lunar) New Year. Kung Hei Fat Choi!