Welcome in the Year of the Dragon by joining the fun

A host of events are planned to mark Chinese New Year

A host of events are planned to mark Chinese New Year

Stuart Piper with his wife Debbie and children Megan, 10, and 12-year-old Abigail  Picture: Sarah Standing (170385-8300)

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This year means different things to different people.

Some are thinking about the Olympics, the Charles Dickens bicentenary or maybe the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Others think of it as the Year of the Dragon and, to these people, it has only just begun.

The Chinese New Year began on Monday and celebrations take place for two weeks.

Here in Portsmouth, there are plenty of ways to mark the beginning of the Year of the Dragon.

There is a Chinese Art and Culture Festival on Sunday at Portsmouth Guildhall and Guildhall Square.

Here, from 11am until 1.30pm, there will be art workshops teaching Chinese brush painting and calligraphy. There will also be paper cutting, Chinese horoscope reading and tai chi. Plus, for children, there is mask painting and ha ha dance.

Then, from 1.30pm to 2pm, the Guildhall will host a stage show with lion dance and other traditional dance, music and song.

The day will also feature Chinese food, arts and crafts stalls.

Vice chair of Portsmouth Chinese Association, Albert Choi, is expecting 600 people to attend the event. He says: ‘We are very much looking forward to another Chinese new year celebration and we welcome Chinese communities and everyone from in and around Portsmouth to join us.’

Tickets cost £5 (or £3 for the over-60s and under-16s) from (023) 9282 4355.

Meanwhile, over at Gunwharf Quays they are hosting their annual celebration on Sunday, February 5.

Like the Guildhall events, this free festival also features performances from local entertainers and art and craft activities, along with children’s face painting.

At 11.30am there will be a parade of three colourful Chinese lions dancing to the beat of drums and attempting to eat cabbages placed in front of Gunwharf Quays’ stores.

The celebrations will continue in Central Square until 3pm with Chinese folk dancing, traditional Qi Gong displays and a martial arts performance.

Centre director Peter Emery says: ‘Chinese New Year is a very important celebration here at Gunwharf Quays and one which the whole community enjoys.

‘This year we have a host of entertainment throughout the day and we are hoping that retailers, visitors and local people will get involved and join us in welcoming the Year of the Dragon.’

Finally, Southsea seafront has some real live dragons involved in celebrations at Blue Reef.

The aquarium is home to four rescued Chinese water dragons, including a pregnant female, so this week it is hosting an array of events based around these fascinating reptiles.

Blue Reef’s Jennifer Atkinson says: ‘It’s fantastic news that she’s pregnant; particularly in such an auspicious year!

‘Since arriving here in November last year the water dragons, which were rescued from a Welsh wildlife attraction which was forced to close down, have become really popular with visitors.’

Chinese water dragons can grow up to 90cm in length and are usually found in plants around lakes and rivers, though they can remain submerged for up to 25 minutes.

Blue Reef visitors will be able to meet the dragons and, until Sunday, can find out about them in talks and special events. Admission costs £7.50 to £9.75.

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