WATCH: Hundreds celebrate Chinese New Year in Sunderland's Keel Square

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It was standing room only as Sunderland's first-ever Chinese New Year celebrations kicked off in style.

Families flocked to the barriers surrounding the stage, and children clapped atop their parents shoulders eagerly waiting to catch a glimpse of the mythical Chinese dragon.

The crowds at Keel Square.

The crowds at Keel Square.

The windy weather, which temporarily delayed part of the show as the canopy was removed from the stage and ended festivities early, could not chill the spirits of those who had travelled to the city centre to watch the programme of events begin.

READ MORE: Sunderland to welcome Year of the Monkey with celebrations for Chinese New Year

Dancers dazzled with their traditional moves, and an exciting firecracker display certainly gave a few of us a jump!

Chinese New Year-themed arts and crafts were taking place in the Corner Flag (more importantly, in the warm) while spectators enjoyed traditional dancing, Kung fu displays and a routine from the Chinese lion.

Watching the Dragon Dance at Keel Square.

Watching the Dragon Dance at Keel Square.

Michelle Howe, from Springwell, praised the event and said: "I think there should be more cultural things."

Paul Wright, 44, had travelled from South Shields to watch the celebrations and said it was great to see something different.

Rainbow Ling, 21, from Malaysia and has been studying in Sunderland for six months.

"It was very good. It's quite special to see something like this in a foreign country," she said.

The dragons entertaining during Sunderland's Chinese New Year.

The dragons entertaining during Sunderland's Chinese New Year.

"It feels a little bit like home. You could feel the atmosphere."

Coun Barry Curran, Mayor of Sunderland, rounded off the spectacular afternoon by handing out traditional red envelopes to the youngsters still present in the crowd.

The gifts are usually passed from elder members of the family to younger, and from employers to employees as part of Chinese New Year.

Coun Curran thanked everyone for their attendance, and praised the "wonderful" performances.

Chinese New Year in Sunderland.

Chinese New Year in Sunderland.

"Thank you for staying with us this afternoon," the mayor added.

"It has been very cold and extremely windy but fantastic for the first time in Sunderland to have Chinese New Year celebrations."