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The Best Things to Do, See and Eat During Sydney Chinese New Year 2019

Celebrate the Year of the Pig with bustling night markets, free art exhibitions and a Szechuan-style buffet.
By Concrete Playground
February 01, 2019
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The Best Things to Do, See and Eat During Sydney Chinese New Year 2019

Celebrate the Year of the Pig with bustling night markets, free art exhibitions and a Szechuan-style buffet.
By Concrete Playground
February 01, 2019
  shares

THE BEST THINGS TO DO, SEE AND EAT DURING SYDNEY CHINESE NEW YEAR 2019

Celebrate the Year of the Pig with bustling night markets, free art exhibitions and a Szechuan-style buffet.

Sydney's annual Chinese New Year festival is the largest outside of Asia, with 1.4-million people estimated to take part in the celebrations. While Tuesday, February 5 is officially the first day of the new year, festivities will run all the way to February 10 — and the schedule for the next few days is packed. Whether it's spent gawking at installations made from 1000 pig lanterns, doing free tai chi on the Opera House steps or eating mango pancakes, this weekend is a great opportunity to celebrate Sydney's rich cultural diversity and help ring in the Year of the Pig.

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    Chatswood Year of the Pig Festival

    Fancy a trip to China, but can’t afford the airfare? Well, luck is on your side, because Chatswood is hosting a three-week-long cultural festival to ring in the Year of the Pig. From January 29 to February 19, the lower north shore suburb will be filled with food, festivities and floats as it celebrates the Chinese New Year. Highlights include a Golden Market in Chatswood Mall with 35 stallholders serving up everything from dumpling to flowers; Celebration Day, one of Sydney’s largest Chinese New Year celebrations; and the Lunar New Year Twilight Parade with impressive floats and dragon dancing moving through Chatswood’s main streets. Foodies can head on one of the Taste of Asia tours, which travel through Chatswood’s many multi-cultural eateries, with guests feasting on everything from Taiwanese bao to Chinese dumplings to authentic Malay and heat-packing tom yum. Kidults (and actual children) can head to a night at the movies with Flicks for Piglets screened every evening, including both Chinese and English family films. And it’s all free — no passport required.

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    Lunar Lanterns 2019

    Circular Quay is ushering in the Year of the Pig with the unveiling of three new lanterns in its Lunar Lanterns exhibition, which runs from February 1 through February 10. The complete artwork includes all 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac (and one extra pig) with the free exhibition spreading out around Circular Quay. The three larger-than-life new lanterns include an abstract pig made from a lattice of pink lights, designed by Chinese sculptor Qian Jian (Justin) Hua and situated on the Sydney Opera House’s western boardwalk; a striped ox atop a gongshi (shaped rocks that have long been collected by Chinese scholars) at Cadman’s Cottage in the Rocks; and a tower of juggling monkeys at East Circular Quay. Last year’s flying pigs are also returning, with the spiral of 1000 individual pigs located at the Overseas Passage Terminal in the Rocks. Sydney’s 23rd annual Chinese New Year Festival is the largest outside of Asia, with an estimated 1.4-million people expected to join the festivities from February 1 through 10. You can check out the full list of lanterns, and where to find them, here.

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    Xiao Lu: Impossible Dialogue

    The 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art will exhibit the work of prominent contemporary Chinese artist Xiao Lu. Impossible Dialogue — curated by Claire Roberts, Mikala Tai — and Xu Hong, features major performance pieces spanning Lu’s 30-year career, including a new commission exploring her connection to Australia. At the centre of the exhibition is Lu’s iconic yet controversial work Dialogue, in which she fired a gun at her own installation. To kick off the Lunar New Year celebrations, the team at 4A are hosting a free workshop and panel this weekend, discussing everything from the legacy of Lu’s work to the representation of gender in contemporary Chinese art. Plus, if you head in on Saturday, February 9, you can get a guided tour of the exhibition and a congee breakfast for just $25. Image: Xiao Lu, Tides (弄潮), 18 January 2019, Sydney. Photograph by Jacquie Manning. Commissioned by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art.

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    The Rocks Lunar Markets

    With the Year of the Pig almost upon us, The Rocks is turning its regular weekend markets into a Lunar New Year celebration. From 10am on Fridays, Saturdays and Sunday between February 1–10, lanterns and themed stalls will be lining the cobblestones of Playfair Street, George Street and Jack Mundey Place. As is usually the case at The Rocks’ regular Friday Foodie Market, there will be plenty of tasty treats to choose from, with Mr Bao and Let’s Do Yum Cha slinging steamed buns and dumplings, a special Banh Mi snag at Jarrod’s Shakes and Snags, and Agape Organic Food Truck’s menu of duck fries and san choy bao. On the sweeter side, Merry Pops, Yum Thai Juice Bar and Som Som Candy are providing everything from smoothies to pig-shaped fairy floss for the New Year. You can find the perfect new year gift for anyone with a selection of boutique stalls offering everything from silk scarves to spicy Thai condiments. Plus, if you happen to be there at 1pm, 2pm or 6pm, you’ll find yourself in the middle of a traditional lion dance. The market will stay open until 10pm each night.

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    Messina Eats: Wonderbao for Chinese New Year

    While Messina’s main jam is crafting supremely scoffable varieties of gelato, the brand’s love of food extends far beyond the freezer, as proven through a series of pop-ups it’s dubbed Messina Eats. Every couple of months, the cult gelateria teams up with a savoury-focused culinary hero and throws a big ol’ food party in the carpark at its Rosebery headquarters. On February 1 and 2, it’s teaming up with Melbourne’s Wonderbao to create a special Chinese New Year menu as dreamy as the soft, doughy pillows themselves. As we’re celebrating the Year of the Pig, the Wonderbao team will be serving its cult gua bao stuffed with roast pork, traditional bao filled with barbecue pork and fries loaded with XO sauce and pork floss. Those who aren’t fans of pork will also find plenty to enjoy in the gua bao stuffed with beer battered fried chicken or tofu with okonomiyaki sauce, and the traditional vegan bao filled with shiitake mushrooms. And for dessert? Sweet egg custard buns and Messina’s famed mango pancakes: thin pancakes filled with mango sorbet and whipped cream. There’ll be two new drinks to try, but there’s no word on what they’ll be just yet — last year it was slushies, so expect something equally sweet and refreshing. The whole thing will go down over Friday and Saturday in the carpark at Messina’s Rosebery HQ. They’ll be open from noon for lunch and dinner until sold out.

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    Lunar New Year at Darling Square

    To celebrate the start of the Year of the Pig, Darling Square’s food hub Steam Mill Lane will be filled with giant zodiac lanterns, courtesy of Tumbalong Park’s Lantern Festival, from Saturday, February 2. And that’s not all that’s happening in the buzzing laneway, either. Its residents will be serving up limited-edition eats, including nightly bottomless unlimited Szechuan-style buffets (for only $19.80) at Ricefields, an extra-porky roll pack from Marrickville Pork Roll, and loaded Chinese-spiced fries, milkshakes and lap cheong (Chinese sausage) beef burgers at 8bit. Plus from February 15–16, between 6 and 7.30pm, you can enjoy a night of bottomless wings and beer for just $40 at Belle’s Hot Chicken (bookings essential) or dance with traditional dragon dance performances at midday and 2pm each day. And you can grab a free fortune cookie or test your mahjong skills (on Friday and Saturday night) and win some sweet prizes, too. You can head down to check out the laneway, its many eateries and large-scale lanterns from 8am–11pm until Saturday, February 23.

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    Lunar New Year Night Market 2019

    The year of the pig is almost here and, to celebrate, the Sydney Fish Market is staying up late once again to host its second Chinese New Year night market on Friday, February 8. Done up with red hanging lanterns, the boardwalk will become a bustling hub of activity after-dark. Traditional red envelopes and special fortune cookies will be passed around — the former of which are meant to bring happiness and prosperity, and latter of which will include “fishy puns” for the new year. This will all go on from 4–10pm amidst the madness of the fish market, which will include a parade of lion dance performers and a laser light show. The licensed restaurants will also have the requisite yum cha and other traditional Chinese dishes to feast on. The market’s expecting over 100,000 visitors throughout the week, so it’s sure to be one helluva celebration of 2019.

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    Every Friday evening, Dixon Street is awash with tourists and locals browsing the popular night markets — and during Chinese New Year, it will be pumping. Explore stalls with designer wares, kooky knickknacks and delectable street food including battered takoyaki (octopus balls), skewers from BBQ King and the peanuty, sugary Dragon Beard Candy. If you still have room, make the all-important stop at Emperor’s Puffs to end your night — the famed puffs are only 30 cents each, so they certainly won’t break the bank. Once you’ve shopped and eaten till your heart’s content, it’s time to check out the area’s great street art. And, since many of the works are constructed from globes and LEDs, after dark is the best time to see them. One to look out for is Jason Wing’s In Between Two Worlds, spanning across Factory Street, Hay Street and Kimber Lane in Haymarket. The beguiling work references both Indigenous and Chinese motifs for wind, water, fire and earth, which are believed to each have their own spirits.

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    China: Moments in Time

    A special photographic exhibition is coming to Sydney just in time for the 2019 Chinese New Year festival. Running from Friday, February 1 to Sunday, February 10, China: Moments in Time will celebrate the work of renowned photojournalist Marcus Reubenstein. It’ll feature 70 vibrant, large-scale prints and multimedia installations captured from across 20 Chinese cities, taking the audience on a journey through the daily lives of locals and highlighting the nation’s diverse culture. Largely told through candid shots of everyday people, the collection delves into the nation’s 5000-year history, exploring China’s ancient past right up to its state-of-the-art modern age. Alongside this free exhibition, there’ll also be opportunities to meet Reubenstein — across two-hour Q&A sessions held at 11am on Saturday, February 2 and 9 — so you can find out what inspired the 19,000 photographs he shot throughout China, his selection process and various travel tidbits. Forming part of the City of Sydney Lunar Festival, China: Moments in Time will be shown at 541 Art Space on Kent Street in the CBD. Head into town to get amongst the lively Chinese New Year festivities, but remember to drop into the gallery and discover the personal stories of those who come from the most populous country on earth, too.

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Top image: Cole Bennetts. 

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