by Levi Parsons
SYDNEY, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) -- Despite their confusion as to why the Chinese are celebrating their New Year a month later, Sydneysiders have been enthralled with the largest Spring Festival outside of Asia.
With more than a million people expected to attend 80 events all over the city, the Lunar New Year is getting all the attention a rooster could want.
"We are proud to have built this into a festival that is not only recognised locally but also in China as one of the biggest Chinese community organised celebrations anywhere in the world," President of the Australia China Economics, Trade and Culture Association Amen Lee said.
Now in its 21st year, Sydney's Spring Festival was once a very modest affair, with lunar celebrations limited to the community of China Town and its residents.
These days, there are festivities all over the city with Sydney's biggest landmarks, including the Harbor Bridge and Opera House, lit up in red to help the 1.2 million people in Australia with Chinese heritage celebrate the new year.
More and more Australian and non-Chinese are also getting swept up in the festival too with just about every major complex in the Central Business District hosting events and performances over the 17-day period.
A popular shopping complex in the heart of the city, Sydney's World Square, was host to a lion dance on Monday in order to ensure good fortune for the retailers.
"The dance is a ritual to welcome the new year, and we encourage all the stores to hang a lettuce or cabbage outside, so the lion can eat the lettuce and bless the shops for the New Year. It brings good luck and prosperity!" World Square marketing coordinator Ally Dennis told Xinhua.
"I'm Australian but I know a bit about the lunar celebrations because the complex has a large Asian demographic, so this time of year is very important for them and for us as well."
"The city of Sydney is so good at embracing Chinese culture. I think these events are fantastic, (and) they are a way of bringing everyone together and embracing our multiculturalism."
Like the rooster, Sydneysiders love to attract attention to the beautiful Harbor city. To open the proceedings last week, Darling Harbor hosted the biggest Lantern Festival ever displayed in Australia, with a giant replica of the Forbidden City and a five-story illuminated gate to welcome the 150,000 people that attended.
To conclude the festival on Feb. 11, the Southern Hemisphere's biggest ever dragon boat regatta will see 3,000 paddlers compete on Sydney Harbor.
"Everyone we've spoken to are really impressed. I don't think people know much about the traditions, but everyone is curious and most people want to find out more," Chinese performer for Jin Wu Koon, Ian Lim told Xinhua.
"It's not quite as big as in China but we still try to put on a good show and to keep the traditions going in Sydney and keep Chinese Culture alive. We do it through lion dance and dragon dance where ever we can," he said.
"The reaction from Australians is actually better than the Chinese because they see a lot of this stuff, so it's common for them, but when we pull out the poles for westerners it's something they have never seen before."
One onlooker told Xinhua, "I don't know much about Chinese New Year at all, but the performances are pretty spectacular. It's an awesome tradition and it's great to see it here in Sydney."
For Australians, the vastly different culture and often confusing traditions of the Spring Festival are exciting, mysterious and new, however the alternate calendars perhaps have more commonalities than one might think.
"The main similarities are spending time with family and being close to friends. It's all about celebrating together," Lim said.