Where to Celebrate the 2019 Sydney Lunar Festival

Sydney celebrates the Year of the Pig in style!

The biggest celebration of Lunar New Year outside of Asia draws from Sydney’s cultural communities with singing, dancing, street performances and even a group of roving pigs.

From 1-10 February, Sydney lights up with Year of the Pig celebrations, showcasing the food, art and cultural traditions from the local Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian and Malaysian communities to celebrate the city’s diversity. 

A centrepiece of this year’s Sydney Lunar Festival is an outdoor stage at the Overseas Passenger Terminal which will showcase dance groups, stories, martial arts and music from 1-3 February. Watch out for the 15 pigs roaming through the crowds spreading good luck and wishes for prosperity. 

Visitors and locals alike can enjoy the Nusantara Sydney Dance troupe from the Indonesian community, who will be performing the Betawi Mask dance, a theatrical performance of Betawi people in Jakarta blending music, dance and singing. 

The Chinese community will be represented by the Hills Chinese Women’s Association, who will tell a story through a fan dance, with performers wearing traditional ‘qipao’ dresses.

Children from the Fairfield Vietnamese community will be performing the ‘Loving Vietnamese Lantern dance’ - “Yêu cây đèn cù”, which celebrates the joyful
start of a new year and ends with the release of the lanterns into the air.

Sydney’s Japanese community is represented by the Soran Dance Troupe, performing the Soran Bushi folk dance from northern Japan, while drummers from the Korean community will perform the Arang Go-Go Jang-gu, a traditional Korean rhythm played on the jang-gu – an hourglass-shaped drum with two ends covered in animal skin. Representatives of the Thai community will perform the Serng Pong Laang folk dance of northern Thailand.

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Contemporary culture is also celebrated during the festival with modern performances by Korean pop – Kpop – group I.Krush and hip-hop dance crew Kookies N Kream.

The popular Lunar Lanterns return with a new Pig lantern on the western boardwalk of the Sydney Opera House. Stroll around the foreshore to discover all 13 lanterns that light up Circular Quay, including the new tower of monkeys, ox and flock of sheep.

Eat your way through the Lunar Festival at one of many foodie events across the city. The Rocks Lunar Markets (1-3 February and 8-10 February) will feature Asian street food as well as arts, crafts and lion dance performances, while The Calyx in the Royal Botanic Gardens will host a dumpling tasting menu. Pan-Asian fusion restaurant Bodhi will be offering a Lunar Festival vegan set menu which showcases contemporary Asian-inspired and pan-Asian cuisine, with a special celebration and lion dance performance. 

The Art Gallery of NSW is holding a special Lunar New Year After Hours event which will feature a traditional lion dance, live music, workshops, plus a look at their new exhibition “Heaven and Earth in Chinese art: treasures from the National Palace Museum, Taipei”. The gallery will also hosting an experiential tea ceremony and a drop-in workshop for kids to make a paper pig.

Families will find plenty to entertain the kids during the festival with a bilingual storytime, singing and lion dancing for pre-schoolers in English and Mandarin and a Dandy Lions under 5s event featuring lantern painting, making a mini oriental garden and a visit to the Oriental Garden at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney.

WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo is offering a unique way to celebrate with their cute koalas. The Zoo will be serving dim sum and congee during their breakfast with the koalas experience, and giving Lunar New Year red pockets to those who book a Koala Encounter or Koala Breakfast Experience

Chinatown will be celebrating the festival with lion dances from 6pm–6.45pm every Friday to Sunday and lanterns suspended over Dixon Street, while the nearby Chinese Garden of Friendship in Darling Harbour will be presenting performances, demonstrations and lion dances.

Other ways to celebrate the Lunar New Year include a special east-meets-west musical performance by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the Sydney Opera House featuring Chinese dancers and pieces of opera by Borodin and Tchaikovsky (1-2 February), calligraphy demonstrations (2 and 5 February), the biggest Dragon Boat Races in the southern hemisphere (9-10 February), LED lion and dragon dancing (8-9 February) and a pop-up beach by Surf Lifesaving NSW in The Rocks where visitors can enjoy games and a blow up ball pit, or relax in a beach chair and admire the view. 

Christine Knight
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