The 2013 Chinese New Year welcomes the Year of the Water Snake, embracing cultures of China and Vietnam among many that follow the Lunar Calendar. The sixth sign in the Chinese zodiac, the Water Snake symbolises wisdom and romance and this year’s New Year’s Day (February 10) is the new moon day of the first lunar month. So from February 8 to 24, look out for firecrackers, drumming and over 80 events to choose from, many of them free.


DO

Festival Launch and Markets
Celebrations kick off at Haymarket’s Belmore Park with a launch ceremony followed by two days of Chinese markets. There will be plenty of fragrant food stalls, firecrackers, lion dancing and cooking demonstrations. The SBS PopAsia crew will keep you entertained with funky tunes from Korean and Japanese pop artists. And if you think you have what it takes, why not battle it out onstage with other enthusiasts at the karaoke competition.
Festival Launch: February 8, 6pm–8pm, Belmore Park, Eddy Avenue.
Chinese New Year Markets: February 8, 4pm–10pm. February 9 and 10, 11am–10pm, Belmore Park, Eddy Avenue.

Twilight Parade
Take in the visual spectacular of the annual procession that leads off from the Sydney Town Hall, with plenty of colourful floats, luminous lanterns and performers in full swing. This year’s procession will feature a life-sized snake, which will shed its skin, symbolising renewal. It will slither along the city streets among projections illuminating city buildings, followed by fireworks at Cockle Bay, which will ward off any bad luck lingering from the previous year and ring in the beginning of the Lunar New Year.
February 17, 7pm–1am.
Pre-entertainment starts at 7pm.
Parade commences at 8.15pm from Sydney Town Hall.

Chinese Garden of Friendship
A range of workshops are on offer here, including feng shui and Chinese calligraphy demonstrations, kung fu and meditation classes and a hands-on session on the art of creating miniature ‘Penjing’ landscapes. Catch a glimpse of the ferocious lion dancing by the Australian Yau Kung Mun Martial Arts Association on the garden’s forecourt on New Year’s Day.
Daily, 9.30am–5pm, South End, Darling Harbour.
Check website for workshop details and to book a place online.


SEE

Snake Snake Snake
Curator Catherine Croll (Cultural Partnerships Australia) delivers this contemporary exhibition showcasing invigorating works by emerging and established Asian Australian artists. Explore themes of spirituality, symbolism and cultural identity in forms such as Jayanto Damanik’s Chinese newspaper Seed sculpture and Pia Johnson’s Middle Kingdom photography series of Shanghai.
Lower Town Hall (entry via Druitt Street), 483 George Street.
February 5–23. Daily, noon–8pm.

Waste Not
A reflection of hardship and loss, this confronting installation by Chinese artist Song Dong explores his mother’s journey of grief following the death of his father. Comprising the entire contents of Dong’s family home in Beijing, some 10,000 domestic objects – stemming from Dong’s mother’s extreme hoarding habit – populate this transformative work, including bottle tops, bird cages, newspapers and old kitchen utensils. Collated over five decades, this intimate representation of mourning and remembrance is visually transcendent.
Carriageworks, 245 Wilson Street (Corner of Codrington Street), Eveleigh.
Until March 17. Daily, 10am–6pm.

Vivian Chan Shaw
Join Whitehouse Institute of Design for a retrospective look at acclaimed Australian fashion label Vivian Chan Shaw. With garments dating back to the first collection in the early 1970s, this exhibition explores the label’s transition to the hand-loomed knitwear for which it is globally renowned today.
Whitehouse Institute of Design Australia, 2 Short Street, Surry Hills.
February 6–13. Daily, 10am–5pm.

Dragon Boat Races
Get your game face on for this fierce ceremonial spectacle along Cockle Bay. Cheer vibrantly decorated 12-metre-long boats as they compete against each other with a crew of 20 and thumping drummer in tow. Not to be missed is the eye-dotting ceremony, where a blessing of the waters is held and red paint is dashed between the eyes of each boat’s dragonhead to give them sight before racing.
Cockle Bay, Darling Harbour.
February 23 and 24, 8am–5pm.


EAT

Chinatown Food Tours
Leave breakfast at home and let two of Sydney’s gastronomy masters, journalist and food writer John Newton and tea specialist Raymond Leung, take you on a culinary discovery of Chinatown. Get rolling with a Taiwanese spread at Mother Chu’s Vegetarian Kitchen while you watch handmade delicacies being prepared through the glass window before moving on to a yum cha feast at The Eight. Bookings essential.
Meet at Chinatown Gate, Goulburn Street end of Dixon Street.
February 16, 20 and 23, 10am–2.30pm.

Lunar Feasts
Let the food coma begin. Treat your taste buds to a range of set-price Lunar New Year menus including Blue Eye Dragon’s 10-course Taiwanese banquet, Bodhi’s vegan yum cha tasting platter, or Ms.G’s eight-course degustation with spiked slushies. Sydney’s Cantonese establishments – Sky Phoenix and Marigold to name a couple – will be serving up traditional banquets of ginger and shallot braised lobster, steamed scallops with XO vermicelli and crispy suckling pig with jelly fish. You’ve been warned. Book early.

Playlunch and Mahjong
Learn to play the ancient Chinese game of mahjong at the Mahjong Room’s Playlunch, all the while enjoying a casual dim sum banquet. A traditional pastime for Chinese families, mahjong is famed for the sound of tiles with Chinese characters clicking together. Mahjong Room, 312 Crown Street, Surry Hills (02) 9361 3985 February 9 and 23, 2pm–5pm mahjongroom.com.au

For the full festival program head to sydneychinesenewyear.com