Culturally, Sydney reminds us in many ways of London and major cities in the U.S. You can find most of the same stores here and the standard of living is pretty much on par. One of the most noticeable differences, though, is the significant Asian influence – it is to a degree that you’re unlikely to find in those cities. Even outside of the sprawling Chinatown district, East and Southeast Asian restaurants seem to outnumber the others. It’s hard to walk more than a block or two without seeing a Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Korean or Japanese establishment, and many of the stores and bars are of Asian influence as well.
It’s no surprise then that Chinese New Year is a big event here, and since we live on the edge of Chinatown it was essentially unavoidable. The festivities started even before the official kickoff, with small entourages of dragons and drums occasionally passing by on the streets. The official kickoff was in Belmore Park on January 28th and included food, drinks, music and other attractions.
This being the Year of the Rabbit, rabbit statues and rabbit-themed things could be found all over the place, ranging from the normal to the strange to the downright creepy. There also were a variety of activities and giveaways at the kickoff: at one point I was wandering around with a stick of incense, unsure of how to properly dispose of it without accidentally committing some sort of egregious cultural faux pas.
We managed to make our way back without causing too much trouble and ended our New Year activities for the evening and the weekend. The celebration was a week long, culminating in a big parade the following weekend and, you guessed it, fireworks!
The following weekend, we ventured out to secure a spot along the parade route, which took over a significant portion of George Street before continuing through the rest of Chinatown. The parade was well done and included a variety of acts from all over eastern Asia. Though the relationship has had its ups and downs, Chinese-Australian relations have historically been mostly positive, in part due to China being Australia’s largest trading partner and Australia’s significant natural resource exports to the country.
The floats were quite elaborate and were interspersed between lots of performers, although we suspect that they started to run out of ideas once they started rolling out all of the floats from previous years: “Hey, we’ve got these things that are just lying around for the next decade, why not throw them in too?” I couldn’t include pictures of them all, so here’s a shot of the pig, the patron animal of mine and Kristen’s birth year.
We could definitely tell when the parade was near the end though, because they really started to run out of ideas at that point. Basically, anything that looked like a rabbit was a valid candidate for being paraded down the street. As a result, I will conclude this edition of “Life with Kristen and Ryan” with a game: Name That Cartoon Rabbit! First correct answer in the comments wins a prize, local pickup only