DANCING dragons captivated crowds as Newcastle celebrated the start of the Chinese New Year.
In what is one of the biggest festivals of its kind outside of London, thousands of people joined in with the vibrant spectacle yesterday that saw dragons, lions and unicorns leap through the city’s Stowell Street and China Town to the snapping of firecrackers.
This year, marking the beginning of the year of the snake, was the 13th New Year party organised by the Chinese Festivity Group and the Newcastle Gateshead Initiative, in association with Bravura Carnival Arts and Newcastle City Council.
Bath Lane and Thornton Square were transformed into a funfair and following the speeches from leading dignitaries from the Chinese Community and Newcastle City Council, spectators were able to catch sight of another highlight – the arrival of a new Lion and the traditional Eye Dotting Ceremony.
During the ritual, the new lion is given life, power and spirit once the pupils of his eyes are painted and the moment the new lion receives life it jumps, laughs and dances and is able to ward off evil spirits.
Throughout the day, families also joined in with traditional craft activities from calligraphy to calendar making watched dance and martial arts displays whilst sampling a wide range of Chinese food.
Jenny Jackson, 26, from Throckley, has brought her son Adam Marshall, to the event for the last five years and arrived early to make sure they would get to catch a glimpse of the energetic dances and displays.
“It is seeing Adam enjoy it that is the highlight for me,” she said.
“They learn about different cultures at school, so I think it is great that they can then come and see a traditional celebration like this in Newcastle.”
It was the first time that Beverley Bainbridge, 30, from Gateshead, had visited the celebrations and she had brought along daughter Holly, three.
She said: “It’s good for the kids to be able to learn about different cultures like this.”
Events took place across the region to herald the arrival of the Year of the Snake.
In Durham’s Market Place, there was an energetic display featuring two expert dancers from Oceans Apart Kung Fu Club and a special event held also took place at the Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens.