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8 exciting events at this year’s CNY Melbourne Festival

From 2–17 February, Melbourne’s 2019 Chinese New Year Festival will be taking place across the city — and what a line up there is to welcome in the Year of the Pig!

This annual festival spreads over 15 days and covers an array of multicultural performances such as lion dances, traditional costume shows, food demonstrations (including two by 2017 MasterChef champion Diana Chan) and family activities like calligraphy and handicraft workshops. With so much on offer, where do you start? Here are our picks for the top 8 events you should add to your calendar for this year’s celebrations.

1. Official Opening

Saturday, 2 February


There’s nothing quite like a big celebration to kick things off in style and Chinese New Year is no exception to that rule. The 2019 Chinese New Year Melbourne Festival will be officially unveiled by the Lord Mayor of the City of Melbourne, along the Yarra River at Queensbridge Square [Southbank]. Enjoy various cultural activities held as part of the Cultural Kaleidoscope program, including Chinese chess competitions, Gods of Fortune photo opportunities, Chinese drum practice, traditional calligraphy art, cultural performances, demonstrations and much more. Kids and families can get a piece of the action in a series of workshops, from singing to playing instruments, as well as enjoying an exciting magic show and live music. From 6pm, there will be a live food demonstration from 2017 MasterChef winner Diana Chan before the official opening ceremony kicks off, with the highlight of most Chinese New Year celebrations — a traditional lion dance ceremony.

2. DFO South Wharf

Saturday, 2 and Sunday, 3 February


Spread over the course of the weekend, DFO South Wharf [20 Convention Centre Place, South Wharf] will host an array of activities for everyone to get involved in. From cultural shows and traditional lion dances, to various hands-on workshops including paper cutting, calligraphy and fan painting, each activity gives you the chance to learn about the Chinese New Year Festival in an exciting and engaging way. Plus, while you’re there, why not take advantage of the Chinese New Year retail offers and enjoy special discounts and savings from big brands such as Coach, Michael Kors and Nike. What better way to celebrate than in a new outfit?

3. Cultural Kaleidoscope

Sunday, 3 February


The Cultural Kaleidoscope includes a series of cultural activities within the main area of Queensbridge Square that is set to showcase Chinese and other Asian customs and culture. Check out the variety of marquees offering different programs to suit both young and old.

The Street of Chinese Cuisine marquee is set to be the hub of Chinese food and traditional recipes, passed down through generations. Serving up a variety of finger food and shareable dishes that are quintessentially eaten during Chinese New Year, this marquee will be the place to feast on dumplings, sweet rice cakes, lamb skewers, savoury pancakes and spring rolls. You’ll also get to learn some tricks of the trade at a live cooking demonstration by 2017 MasterChef winner Diana Chan. It’s the perfect place to learn how to cook traditional meals and delve into the tastes and flavours of China.

Come along and immerse yourself in a series of cultural workshops and demonstrations throughout the day and into the night — think traditional tea ceremonies, martial arts demonstrations, traditional instrument classes, Tai Chi, paper cutting, calligraphy and painting.

For the little ones, special guests Peppa Pig, George, Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig will visit the marquee for a meet and greet between 1–5pm. Don't miss out on all the Peppa Pig goodies she'll be giving away too!

As the sun goes down, choose from a variety of traditional performances to watch. From parades, Kung Fu and drums, to Tai Chi, square dancing and dance performances by youth groups, you’re bound to be entertained by all the talent around you.

4. The District Docklands

Friday, 8 to Sunday, 10 February

12pm–1pm on Friday and 11am–2pm on Saturday and Sunday

For three days only, The District Docklands [440 Docklands Drive] will light up to celebrate the Year of the Pig in true Chinese style. Kicking things off on Friday 8 February at Fukutontei Ramen [CW G15, The District Docklands], a lion dance will bless the restaurant at noon and then roam through O’Brien Group Arena [Ground/105 Pearl River Road, Docklands] for a lion dance on ice and through the venue in the evening. Saturday will feature live music, entertainment, and fun activities for the whole family to enjoy, plus a spectacular fireworks display (weather permitting). Try your hand at lantern making, painting or paper cutting, or learn how to write your name in Chinese.

5. Family Day at the Cultural Kaleidoscope

Saturday, 9 February


It’s time for the the whole family to join in on the fun. Head down to the Melbourne Museum [11 Nicholson Street, Carlton] and get amongst the Chinese New Year celebrations, with a range of exciting activities for the entire family. Learn how to make lanterns, write your name in calligraphy, immerse yourself in the ancient art of paper cutting, or try your hand at face colouring. Kick back and learn about the ins and outs of Chinese culture through performances from local and international Chinese artists. Selfie lovers take note: there will be plenty of photo opportunities when the Chinese God of Wealth, Luck and Fortune stops by.

6. China Year, Eastern Love Concert

Friday, 15 February


The Shanghai Artists Performance Group has added more talent to the line-up of their Australian tour this year, with two operas popular in the eastern regions of China — Shanghai Opera and Yue Opera — as well as stand-up comedy, upping the entertainment for this year’s event at Melbourne Town Hall [90–130 Swanston Street, Melbourne]. Consisting of artists solely from Shanghai, China Year, Eastern Love will headline the 2019 Chinese New Year Melbourne Festival. Arranged by the Australian Shanghai Business Association Inc, don’t miss this rare opportunity to experience Chinese art and theatre at its finest.

7. Chinese New Year Dragon Boat Festival

Saturday, 16 and Sunday, 17 February

Social Regatta Registration:

Dragon Boat racing has been practiced for more than 2000 years, making it one of China’s oldest and most revered traditions. In Chinese culture, the dragon is a symbol for good luck and is said to live within the sea and in the clouds, controlling the rainfall. Over the years, the racing has come to symbolise a ritual to bring luck and prosperity to a city. Held at Victoria Harbour in Docklands, each day of the festival will start with a unique eye dotting ceremony to awaken the dragons and the blessing of the boats and water to ensure safe racing. The first day’s Social Dragon Boat Regatta will provide an opportunity for the community to get involved in this esteemed tradition, with any organisation, company, or group of friends invited to form a dragon boating team (training will be provided, don’t worry) — hurry though, registrations close on 21 January. Running throughout the day and in conjunction with other cultural performances, the afternoon will finish off with a presentation to crown the Social Teams winners. The second day’s Dragon Boat Regatta will run in a similar fashion, except the races are reserved for club members — the perfect chance to see how the professionals do it.

If you missed the visit from Peppa Pig at the Cultural Kaleidoscope, don't miss her next appearance at the Dragon Boat Regatta on Saturday, 16 February. Peppa Pig, George, Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig will be doing a meet and greet between 10am–1pm.

8. Official Closing Ceremony

Sunday, 17 February


All good things must come to an end, and a very special program has been developed for this year’s closing ceremony at Melbourne Museum [11 Nicholson Street, Carlton]. Light and colour will illuminate the city while you enjoy a lantern parade with the fire dragon and glowing lions, and a terrific closing ceremony dance. Kids and families will also get to dance with the performers and learn authentic Chinese routines to traditional music. There’s no better way to end CNY celebrations!

Key festival information:

CNY Melbourne Festival
2–17 February 2019
Various locations across Melbourne