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Sydney flaunts its feathers

by Bernard O'Shea

Sydney’s new lunar year celebrations are something to crow about, even for a cheeky Rat like Bernard O’Shea.


Sydney is in a festive phase, come the Chinese new year, which is celebrated with a two-week festival that usually culminates with Dragon Boat races at Darling Harbour. The pop-up restaurants at the Lunar Lantern Hub in Martin Place, the heart of the financial district, are also very popular – and probably best sampled at night when the lanterns are glowing and the barbecues are sizzling.

Time to Wander’s Facebook pictures of the Chinese new year celebrations caused some confusion among people in South America and other places where lunar and lunisolar calendars are not paid much attention. Why, they wanted to know, were new year celebrations taking place in late January? It didn’t make any sense!

They were only aware of the Gregorian calendar, which is a solar calendar (based on the revolution of the Earth around the sun). The Chinese new year, if TTW understands it correctly, starts on the second new moon after the solstice, and the calendar date for that can vary (this year it began on January 28, next year it will be February 16).

The lunar lanterns above the eating hub in Martin Place.

The lunar lanterns above the eating hub in Martin Place.

I can understand the confusion, because I was puzzled myself when I first arrived in Australia from Africa, where oriental traditions are little known and where we had only one Chinese restaurant in town. But regardless of all the complicated astronomy behind it, you’ll have to agree that having two new year celebrations, one shortly after the other, is better than one, isn’t it?

Sydney has a large Asian population, which means it Chinese new year celebrations are pretty colourful and comprehensive. It helps that it’s summer and the outdoors is inviting at this time of the year. In the chilly Asian cities of the northern hemisphere, the festivities are more about reuniting with family members and feasting on comfort food, well insulated from the outdoor cold. It’s not good for the waist line!

Another part of the lunar new year fun is getting to know Chinese astrology, with its twelve animal signs and five elements of wood, fire, earth, metal and water. It is all nicely explained here.

There's a lot of cock-a-doodle-do down by Sydney Harbour.

There’s a lot of cock-a-doodle-do down by Sydney Harbour.

We are now in the Year of the Fire Rooster, and for this reason the rooster lanterns have been given the prime spot on Sydney’s harbour foreshore, right by the famous Opera House. Last year was a Fire Monkey and next year it will be an Earth Dog. So now you know what animal will be most prominent around Sydney Harbour roughly this time next year.

But the roosters don’t have it all to themselves – you will discover many more spectacular animal lanterns scattered around the city. This writer might be a teeny bit biased, but the Rats in town are really cute. So lovable and full of personality!

If you've got it, flaunt it, is the Rat's philosophy.

If you’ve got it, flaunt it, is the Rat’s philosophy.

Whatever your element,
Whatever your animal,
Whatever your zodiac sign,
Time to Wander wishes you all the best for the year. TTW

Bernard O’Shea travelled at his own expense. Photos © Bernard O’Shea.

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