THE North East will be alive with colour and dancing as it celebrates Chinese New Year.
From costumes to crafts, and food to fun and games, children at Sunderland schools are gearing up to celebrate Chinese New Year.
This is the Year of the Dragon and activities are being planned around that theme.
Grange Park Primary School, in Swan Street, Monkwearmouth, will hold a range of celebrations to mark the event, including reception children taking to the kitchen to cook Chinese food.
Headteacher Pauline Wood said: “We celebrate the event every year and the children usually get dressed up for the fun.”
Another school taking part in Chinese New Year celebrations will be Benedict Biscop CE Primary School, which is part of Sunderland’s partnership agreement with Harbin in China.
Sarah Hepworth, deputy headteacher at the Marcross Drive school, said: “This year our Year 5 pupils have been part of a project with pupils of the same age in China to develop animal homes within the school grounds.
“We are expecting pupils from China to visit us in February and I am taking pupils from our school to Harbin in June.
“We are currently looking at ways to raise money to support the project and one of them is a fun day during Chinese New Year celebrations.”
On Thursday, January 26, the children will go to school dressed as a Chinese Zodiac characters and take part in a number of Chinese-themed activities including arts and crafts, games, food tasting and learning some Chinese words.
Children and their families will also be able to celebrate the Year of the Dragon with lion dances, kung fu demonstrations, food and craft stalls at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens on Saturday, January 28.
From 11am to 1pm the children will be able to take part in making Chinese lanterns and mini dragon puppets to join in a dragon parade throughout the Winter Gardens at 3.30pm.
Also on Saturday, January 28 there will be Durham’s traditional Chinese Lion Dance, performed by dancers from Oceans Apart Kung Fu Club, dressed in a lion costume with fluttering eyelids and a moveable jaw, and accompanied by a host of percussionists.
The dance starts at 1pm in Durham Market Place then makes its way to the Prince Bishops Shopping Centre and on to The Gates Shopping Centre before finishing at Clayport Library and Walkergate at 2pm, entertaining the crowds lining the streets throughout the afternoon.
In keeping with tradition, the lion chews on a lettuce before spitting it out to a chosen dignitary from the city. In catching it, it is said that this will bring the city good luck for the rest of the year.
The Oriental Museum in Durham will be holding Chinese New Year activities every day from Monday, January 23 to Monday, February 6, which will include a Chinese Zodiac Quiz Trail around the Museum, making and decorating the longest Chinese dragon and making Chinese New Year decorations.
On Monday, February 6 from 6pm to 8pm the museum will be lit up by lanterns and visitors have the chance to join in a dragon procession.
Chinese New Year foods are very important.
All family members come together to eat at this time and it is traditional to serve certain foods, such as Chinese dumplings, fish, spring rolls and nian gao.
Restaurants across the region will be hosting special celebrations to mark Chinese New Year, among them is Sunderland’s Asiana Fusion in the city centre.
On Thursday, January 26 the restaurant will be holding a special Chinese New Year celebration night with diners being entertained by lion dancers from the UK Kung Fu Dragon and Lion Dancing Association, along with live classical Chinese music.
Also celebrating Year of the Dragon will be Wessington Brewers Fayre in Sunderland, which is offering a free meal to anyone with the surname Dragon on Monday, January 23.
Diners at Wessington can enjoy a Chinese theme night every Monday with an all-you-can-eat buffet with dishes including sweet & sour chicken, szechuan vegetables and beef in black bean sauce.
CHINESE NEW YEAR - 2012 YEAR OF THE DRAGON
The celebrations for the event start on January 22, Chinese New Year’s Eve, and will run until February 6, ending with a lantern festival.
Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is the most important traditional festival and a public holiday in China and starts on the first day of the first Chinese month.
The festival is celebrated grandly and extensively across China and cultural traditional activities include lighting fireworks, dragon dancing and lion dancing.
Every family thoroughly cleans the house, which is believed to drive away ill-fortune and bring good luck in the coming year, and windows and doors are adorned with red decorations.
The reason the colour red is frequently used for New Year decorations is that it is associated with good fortune and happiness in Chinese culture.
From the first day of the New Year to the 15th day, Chinese people go to visit friends and relatives, giving new year greetings and lucky money is given to children.
Other traditions include the New Year’s Eve Feast where families get together to eat and then watch the New Year Gala on television.
Traditionally, the second day of Chinese New Year is for married daughters to visit the house of her parents, the third to seventh day is for people to visit friends and relatives.
The eight day is the end of the official New Year Holiday and people will go back to work on this day.
But, on the 15th day there is the Yuanxiao, lantern festival, which marks the end of the Spring Festival celebrations.