Lord Mayor Clover Moore today officially launched the countdown to the start of Sydney's Chinese New Year Festival - the largest celebration of the Lunar New Year outside of Asia.
The City of Sydney's festivities kick off with an opening night fireworks display on 16 February together with Sydney Harbour Bridge glowing an auspicious red for 10 consecutive nights.
The spectacular start to the Year of the Dog also includes unveiling the Lunar Lanterns exhibition at Circular Quay, with giant artworks representing the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac.
The Lord Mayor said the city-wide celebrations this Lunar New Year are an opportunity for all the community to come together in harmony.
"The Lunar New Year is a fantastic way to highlight and celebrate our Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Thai and Australian cultures in Sydney," the Lord Mayor said.
Around 1.4 million people are expected to join in Sydney's 22nd Chinese New Year Festival that run from 16 February to 4 March and includes everything from art exhibitions and food events to live performances and dragon boat races.
As part of the Lunar Lanterns exhibition, the City unveils five new lanterns this year. An animated dog lantern features on the western broadwalk at the Sydney Opera House. A pig lantern with 1,000 individual pigs is at Cadman's Cottage in The Rocks. A colourful 13-metre tall dragon lantern sits on the front lawn of the Museum of Contemporary Art. A huge resting tiger sits atop a Circular Quay ferry terminal. And two 3.8-metre-tall dog lanterns guard the entrance to Dixon Street Mall in Chinatown.
Designer of the dog lantern at the Sydney Opera House, Chinese-Australian artist Song Ling, said the new dog lantern is based on traditional designs and inspired by his beloved pet.
"The most significant quality in dogs is their unconditional companionship and loyalty. Their energy can be passed on to us, with a special kind of warmth - as if they understand us more than we know ourselves - and I brought this feeling into my creation," he said.
The Lunar Lanterns exhibition, from 16 to 25 February, runs along Circular Quay from the Sydney Opera House to the Overseas Passenger Terminal, with the addition of two dog lanterns in Chinatown.
Chinatown will come alive with a host of enchanting sights, sounds and taste-bud-tingling smells in celebration of the Lunar New Year. From lion dancers to food and art tours across Haymarket, a variety of unique celebrations will transport visitors to the charm and magic of traditional Chinese culture.
More than 200 performers and international delegates will feature in the festival, taking part in traditional, contemporary and folk dances, choral performances, martial arts and lion dances. The performers in the impressive line-ups have Australian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai and Indonesian heritage.
Upwards of 3,000 paddlers from across Australia will take part in the annual Dragon Boat Races on Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 February. In the biggest dragon boat race in the southern hemisphere, the two-day regatta consists of more than 100 races running every 10 minutes each day. The races incorporate sports and corporate club races, charity races and WSFM's Jonesy and Amanda who will compete in their own celebrity dragon boat race on Saturday.
The city charity partner for the Chinese New Year Festival, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, will run several events as part of the festival.
Guide Dogs NSW/ACT CEO Dale Cleaver said: "We're proud to be a part of this year's Sydney Chinese New Year Festival, honouring some of our dogs in-training who are about to begin their lives as fully fledged guide dogs at a graduation ceremony, a dog art installation and a guided tour of the Lunar Lanterns."
More than 80 associated events will offer celebrations of the Lunar New Year, from a traditional tea ceremony at the Art Gallery of NSW and congee breakfasts in Chinatown to art exhibitions and a Chinese opera demonstration.
The Sydney Opera House's Concert Hall stage will feature leading Chinese and Australian singers and musicians in East Meets West - Chinese Lunar New Year's Eve Gala Concert and Treasures of a Nation, a performance by the prestigious Chinese Orchestra of China National Opera and Dance Drama Theater.
Festival highlights include:
Lunar Lanterns exhibition - Friday 16 February to Sunday 25 February
- A spectacular display of 12 giant lanterns, depicting the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac, will grace the foreshore around Circular Quay, from the Sydney Opera House to the Overseas Passenger Terminal for 10 days and nights.
- Lunar Lanterns is a contemporary take on a centuries-old tradition, with some lanterns standing up to 13 metres tall.
Community Performance Program and Lunar Spectacular Show - 16-18 and 23-25 February, from 5pm
- A free celebration of culture, community and friendship. Performers from a wide range of community groups will take to the outdoor stage with traditional and contemporary performances at First Fleet Park in The Rocks.
- Groups specialising in choir performances, opera, classical music, fashion shows, tai chi and kung fu are sure to delight.
- Featuring the best of community performances, the Lunar Spectacular Show is a one-hour curated program that showcases traditional Chinese, Thai, Indonesian, Japanese and Korean dancing; Japanese hip hop; Korean drumming; the Chinese New Year Festival Dancers; and stilt walking.
Chinatown Celebrations: Friday 16 February to Sunday 4 March
- Chinatown will be transformed into a thundering lion den with traditional lion dancers and red firecrackers.
- Step inside the AYAM tuk tuk and play Zodiac Roulette, which uses world-first technology to discover your ideal Asian dish, matched to your combined Chinese and western Zodiac signs.
- A host of events include the Chinese Youth League's Cantonese Opera Demonstration and Seminar, Chinatown's cuisine and local art in 4A Night Walk and Art Space, a cinematic experience with Chindia: Short Films from the Diaspora, and one of the many Chinese banquets on offer.
- Shoppers can step into a virtual reality world with the World Square Dragon's Tail Augmented Reality Experience and Red Treasure Hunt.
- The Friday night Chinatown markets on Little Hay Street will offer everything from yum cha and teppanyaki to takoyaki and green-tea flavoured desserts.
Australian Premiere - Stalker Theatre's Frameshift - Friday 16 February to Sunday 18 February 8.30pm - 9.15pm
- One of the country's leading physical theatre companies has teamed up with performing artists from Korea for the Australian premiere of the aerial theatre show, Frameshift.
- The free contemporary art performance will take over Customs House Square on 16 to 18 February, as part of the City's year-round celebration of art in unusual places, Art and About Sydney.
- Performers blend breakdancing and aerial manoeuvres across a 15m high scaffolding structure and circular track transformed into a dance playground for the contemporary production.
Dragon Boat Races - Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 February
- Thousands of paddlers from across Australia will take to the waters for the annual races on Cockle Bay at Darling Harbour for the biggest dragon boat race in the southern hemisphere.
- The 12m long boats are decorated to feature the head and tail of a dragon - each vessel is armed with 22 rowers, including a drummer to inspire the rowers with a rhythmic beat.
- The two-day regatta consists of more than 100 races running every 10 minutes each day and features sports, corporate and charity clubs races.
Chinese delegates in Sydney - Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 February
- A delegation of 22 performers from Henan province will entertain crowds over the weekend of 24 and 25 February on the Community Performance Stage at First Fleet Park in The Rocks.
- The delegation comprises of three performance groups - Shaolin monks exercising kung fu, a traditional folk music band and a dance group. The delegation is organised by the Provincial Ministry of Culture.
Guide Dogs NSW/ACT - various dates from Friday 16 February to Sunday 4 March
- A graduation ceremony for three dogs-in-training that have made the grade and are about to become guide dogs on 17 February at 5.30pm on the Community Performance Stage at First Fleet Park in The Rocks.
- A Guide Dogs NSW/ACT model dog art installation, comprising 70 life-size model dogs decorated by artists, will be on display at Scout Place (outside the AMP Building) and Customs House, Circular Quay from 16 to 25 February. 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.
- Guided tour of the Lunar Lanterns for the blind leaves from the model dog art installation at Scout Place (outside AMP Building) at 7.30pm on 21 and 22 February.
Associated events - various dates from Friday 16 February to Sunday 4 March
- More than 80 associated events across Sydney will offer celebrations of the Lunar New Year. These include singing karaoke at the top of the Harbour Bridge, to tea ceremonies, exploring the moon at Sydney Observatory, lantern workshops, photography exhibitions, performances, kids' events and tours.
Asian food - Friday 16 February to Sunday 4 March
- With some of the world's best Asian restaurants to choose from, Sydneysiders will be spoilt for choice with special celebratory dishes served alongside an array of year-round favourites.
- Festive snacks for Chinese New Year Festive are being offered by Gelato Messina, Din Tai Fung, Laduree, AYAM, Koi Dessert Bar, Monkey's Corner and Black Star Pastry.
- The Sydney Opera House's Opera Bar is offering steamed scallops with lemongrass, ginger and soy ($24 for half a dozen) prawn and sesame toast, chilli dipping sauce, costing $15. Then there's Portside Sydney for Shanghai braised pork belly with steamed fragrant rice, served with a glass of wine at $20. Or try The Lounge for a selection of chicken and mushroom, prawn or vegetable dumplings for $13.
For more details on the festival and all the events go to sydneychinesenewyear.com