The Year of the Rabbit celebrated at Gunwharf

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For most of us in and around Portsmouth, the New Year began on January 1.

But for those with Chinese heritage, who have a different traditional calendar, it is New Year now.

The Chinese calendar names each of the years after an animal, in a 12-year cycle. And 2011 is the year of the Rabbit.

Though the Chinese year officially began on February 3, festivities last for up to two weeks and Thursday, February 17, marks the day of the Lantern Festival.

So, organisers at Gunwharf Quays thought this Sunday would be the perfect time to celebrate.

Of course, the Chinese among us already have festivities in full swing, but for many others in the area, the event offers a chance to immerse yourself in another culture and have some fun into the bargain.

Visitors to the leisure destination on Portsmouth harbour can see Chinese Lions dance their way around the shops and restaurants as well as traditional Chinese dancing displays from Portsmouth Chinese Association.

There will also be Chinese singing with Zhou Juan and martial arts demonstrations including tai chi and chi kung.

Plus visitors can try their hand at Chinese calligraphy and brush painting, find their Chinese horoscope and buy Chinese art and crafts.

The whole venue will be decorated in colourful oriental lanterns to host its Chinese New Year event, drawing visitors from across Hampshire and the south east.

The festivities will begin at midday with a traditional procession of Chinese lions that will eat cabbage and lettuce leaves en route from a selection of Gunwharf Quays businesses.

The lions will also receive lucky money (which will be donated to a Chinese orphanage) in return for blessings of a prosperous business year. The procession will end in Central Square and run again on the same route at 3pm.

The programme of entertainment will continue until 4pm with displays and demonstrations in Central Square.

Family creative activities include making lanterns and dragon masks and having a go at balloon modelling one of the animals from the Chinese calendar.

Plus, The National Museum of the Royal Navy will be showcasing some of their Chinese treasures.

Peter Emery, centre director, says: ‘The Gunwharf Quays Chinese New Year event has grown from strength to strength over the years and we are always overwhelmed with the support and participation of the local and wider Chinese community. It is great to offer the public a range of activities and entertainment they may not experience in their day-to-day lives.’