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The Five Best Things to See and Do at Chinese New Year Festival Wellington

From food and craft markets to street parades and fireworks — here's how to ring in the Year of the Rat in Wellington.
By Bella Foster
January 31, 2020
By Bella Foster
January 31, 2020

Welcome to the Year of the Rat; a fresh start as Wellingtonians welcome Chinese New Year with a festival to remember. In our capital, Chinese New Year is a time to bring the community together with all things music, food, performance and culture. Enjoy everything from food and craft markets, live performance and street parades to cultural dancing, workshops and fireworks. This explosion of colour and vibrancy will be hitting the streets from February 1–2.



Kicking off this year's festival on Saturday, 1 February will be a breathtaking performance from both local and international artists at TSB Bank Arena. East Meets West is the meeting of two cultures, an acknowledgement of both our similarities and vast differences. With the theme of this year's show Colours of our Culture, inspired by visual artist Guy Ngan, this performance will be truly beautiful. As a second-generation Chinese-New Zealander, Guy's work is characterised by bright colours and organic movement, which will be translated into everything from the music you hear to the clothing you see on stage.

The show will feature a mixture of song, dance and film, all of which combine the rich, vibrancies of both eastern and western cultures. You'll also get the opportunity to witness a special appearance by the Chongqing Longjiang Arts Troupe, all the way from the Chongqing province in China. Experience this cultural exchange and collaboration on stage with a performance that will help build an understanding and appreciation for both eastern and western cultures, all for a gold coin donation.



It wouldn't be a Chinese New Year Festival without an incredible fireworks display on our beautiful waterfront. Following the East Meets West show on Saturday, 1 February, head down to Frank Kitts Park from 9.30pm where Wellingtonians will gather together to celebrate the transition from the Year of the Pig to the Year of the Rat.

This explosion of colour and sound is a way of cleansing, warding off evil spirits and welcoming good luck and fortune for the coming year. This event marks a new year, full of hope, possibilities and exciting new opportunities. So, bring your family, friends and loved ones down to the waterfront to celebrate the new year in style. The display will run for half an hour and if the weather doesn't play ball then the fireworks will commence at the same time on Sunday, 2 February.



Starting off the second day of celebrations at TSB Bank Arena is something a little different and the perfect way to really get involved in the festival. Learn the basics of Chinese dragon dancing with a 30-minute workshop teaching the basic movements and principals of this traditional Chinese performance. Instructors will run you through a series of movements, all of which are suitable for any age and fitness level.

To accompany this workshop, you'll also get the chance to sample Wellington's very first dragon dance experience through virtual reality goggles. Designed by local Wellington-based filmmaker, Ed Davis (Lucid Tripper), this revolutionary technology gives you the opportunity to step inside a whole new world. Enjoy this immersive and cinematic experience at the workshop or check out Lucid Tripper's stall at the Asian market from 11am–4.30pm. This workshop and VR combo will be running in two 30-minute intervals, the first starting at 10.30am and the second at 12pm.



Bringing spice and flavour to your weekend of celebrations is the mouthwatering Asian Food and Craft Market, a classic staple of the Wellington Chinese New Year Festival. Here you'll find a delicious range of traditional and contemporary Asian food from a selection of different cultures. Explore flavours from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and China, with a trip around the world for your tastebuds.

This event is the perfect space for community groups and local restaurants to come together and showcase their incredible culinary skills. Joining forces, they'll bring you a huge range of delicious foods to sample, with all your classic favourites and some new and exciting dishes in the mix. This market is also a great opportunity to browse a selection of Asian craft materials and merchandise.



To finish off your Chinese New Year weekend is the much-loved street parade. The colourful celebration of marching, dancing and parading will hit the main streets of Te Aro from 2pm. This event is a crowd favourite and the only community-run parade in Wellington, so the streets will be packed with locals celebrating.

Enjoy this cultural parade from Tory Street to Frank Kitts Park, taking you down Courtenay Place and then along our beautiful Wellington waterfront. This fabulous display of colour, symbolism, dance and music brings together what Chinese New Year really means to our community. It's also the perfect opportunity to get dressed up and boogie your way around the city.

Published on January 31, 2020 by Bella Foster
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