NewcastleGateshead welcomes in Chinese New Year on January 29 in one of the biggest celebrations of its kind in the North of England.
There will be a day of free events and performances which includes a unique opportunity to witness the auspicious Eye Dotting Ceremony of the new Chinese Dragon.
This year sees the King of Beasts take centre stage in the Chinese calendar. To celebrate its arrival the streets in and around Chinatown, Newcastle, will be brought to life from 11am-5pm on January 29 to welcome in the Chinese New Year 2012.
Carol Bell, head of culture and major events at NewcastleGateshead Initiative, said: “Newcastle hosts one of the largest Chinese New Year celebrations north of Manchester and every year the festivities attract thousands of people into the city centre.
“Together with the Chinese Festivity Group, we have programmed a full day of events and activities celebrating Chinese history and heritage, as well as celebrating the Chinese community living in NewcastleGateshead. Everything is free to attend and there’s something to suit every age so it’s a brilliant day out for all the family.”
Bath Lane and Thornton Square will be transformed into a funfair and Chinese market from 11am whilst The Chinese Centre on Westgate Road gives visitors the chance to try their hands at Chinese calligraphy, card and calendar making, fortune telling and games.
At 12pm the Bath Lane Stage plays host to the lucky Eye Dotting Ceremony which awakens the new dragon from his slumber to the sound of firecrackers. Arriving sightless and dormant, the new dragon will be given sight, taste and power when the pupils of his eyes are painted in, giving his spirit life.
The Eye Dotting Ceremony of a new dragon is considered particularly auspicious in the Year of the Dragon, and those taking part in the ceremony are blessed with good luck and plentiful fortune.
At the other end of Stowell Street under the ornate ceremonial arch, the traditional dragon, lion and unicorn dances begin at around 12.30pm.
Amanda Chan from the Chinese Festivity Group said: “The Chinese New Year celebrations in Newcastle are a fantastic opportunity for people to learn about Chinese culture and experience firsthand some of the traditions and ceremonies that are unique to Chinese people. This year will be extra special as we welcome a brand new dragon.”
Other activities include an exhibition of Chinese costume, food, arts and craft (12.30pm-4pm) at the North East Chinese Association on Stowell Street; the Children’s Marquee on Thornton Square has traditional arts and craft activities for all the family and Dance City – in partnership with The Chinese Students and Scholars Association and Newcastle University – invites visitors to experience real Chinese culture through Chinese activities and games, old and new.
The fun doesn’t stop there. Performances and demonstrations, including the arrival of the lion dance to distribute lucky money (4pm), continues on the Bath Lane Stage until 5pm.
For full details of all the events taking place during NewcastleGateshead’s Chinese New Year celebrations, visit www.NewcastleGateshead.com/ChineseNewYear
Additional events prior to the celebrations on January 29 include the Traditional Chinese Banquet on January 24 at Aura East Meets West Restaurant, Waterloo Square, Newcastle. Places cost £25 and must be pre-booked by calling 0191 233 2020 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Newcastle City Library hosts a full day of Chinese Craft Workshops on January 28 (10am-5pm). Artists Lip Lee and Chi Chun Chao will be leading free, drop-in family craft workshops where visitors can make traditional dragon puppets and masks, bookmarks and Chinese New Year cards. Chi Chun Chao will also be teaching people the art of Chinese calligraphy and how to write their name in Chinese.
Chinese New Year Celebrations are presented by the Chinese Festivities Group, produced by NewcastleGateshead Initiative in association with Bravura Carnival Arts and funded by Newcastle City Council.
Chinese New Year forms part of NewcastleGateshead’s festivals and events programme.