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Out with the Rat and in with the Ox. January 26 marks the first day of the new Chinese lunar calendar for the year 4707 and celebrations will be held among Chinese communities throughout the world. You don't have to travel to China to immerse yourself in the festivities. Here are a few other options you may want to consider for bringing in the Year of the Ox with fanfare and pageantry.

San Francisco

Known for its large and vibrant Chinese community, San Francisco has had a tradition of Chinese New Year (CNY) celebrations since the 1860s. The events are varied and take place throughout the months of January and February, 2009 in and around the Chinatown area. Some highlights include:

  • CNY Flower Fair -- January 24 to 25, 2009 - Grant Avenue from Clay to Broadway and Pacific Avenue from Kearny to Stockton. The streets are filled with an array of fresh colorful flowers and fruit like orchids, peach blossoms, narcissus, snap dragons, chrysanthemums, oranges and tangerines that residents and visitors purchase as gifts and decorations for their homes. There is traditional Chinese dance, music, art, cultural displays, and a children's zone featuring a petting zoo and fun activities.
  • Miss Chinatown USA Pageant -- January 31, 2009.
  • CNY Parade -- February 7, 2009. Named one of the world's top ten parades, this festive celebration features dozens of elaborate floats, costumes, dancing lions, marching bands, martial arts group, stilt walkers, Chinese acrobats, Miss Chinatown USA, and the Golden and the famous 201 foot long Golden Dragon at the end of the parade accompanied by over 600,000 firecrackers.
  • Chinese Culture Center Spring Festival at the Chinese Cultural Center -- February 7 and 8, 2009. Featuring exhibitions, crafts, demonstrations, New Year food tastings, performances of lion dances, martial arts, and classical dances.
  • The Chinatown Community Street Fair will be held on February 7 and 8, 2009 on Grant Avenue from Clay to Broadway; Pacific Avenue from Kearney to Stockton; and Jackson Street from Kearny to Stockton. Experience Chinese cultural arts like lantern and kite making, puppet shows, calligraphy, fine arts demonstrations, folk dance, traditional and modern music and dance. There will be acrobats, lion dancing, and magic demonstrations too with a crowd in excess oh half a million people.

For a full listing of all events visit www.sanfranciscochinatown.com/events/index.html.

Sydney

Sydney, Australia is home to a Chinese community some quarter of a million strong and it puts on what has been called the largest CNY celebration outside Asia. The Festival runs from January 23 to February 15, 2009 and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors and locals. There is an entire calendar of activities planned (over 50 events) including Chinese archaeology tours, Feng Shui classes, Chinese opera, temple tours,and cultural sessions. Many events are free and open to the public while others require tickets. Highlights include:

  • CNY Markets at Belmore Park -- January 23 to 25, 2009. Featuring delicious Chinese food outlets; 50 stalls offering traditional New Year gifts and decorations; performances of traditional Dragon Dancing, Chinese Opera and contemporary music; and activity marquees where you can take a Tai Chi class, learn Chinese drumming, take part in Lion Dancing, try your hand at Mah Jong, cook Chinese delicacies, or create your own lantern.
  • CNY Twilight Parade -- February 1, 2009 from Sydney Town Hall to Chinatown. A stunning night time procession of lanterns, lights, costumes, giant dragons and illuminated floats with 2,600 participants, including 500 dancers, musicians, and martial artists from China's Henan Province. The parade ends with fire works at Darling Harbour.
  • Dragon Boat Races -- February 7 to 8, 2009. Two days of exciting traditional Dragon Boat races through the waters of Darling Harbour, with more than 3,000 paddlers and 200,000 spectators.
  • The Sydney China Film Festival -- January 23 to February 15, 2009. The latest Chinese-language blockbusters, premieres and art films will be shown in cinemas throughout the inner city and Chinatown areas.
  • Chinese Gardens Chamber Music Festival -- February 5 to 8, 2009. Enjoy dinner and a show with performances by artists from China and Australia like Pintan chamber opera, the traditional music from Suzhou, in the peaceful setting of the Gardens with the finest Chinese food and Australian wine. Tickets (meal included) are $65 and $85 and are available at www.johnhuiemusic.com.
  • Cinema Alley -- January 30, 2009 -- Parker Street, Haymarket. An entire street in Chinatown will be transformed into an outdoor street cinema presenting video art by important young Asian artists. Based on the ancient Chinese mythological manuscripts, the animation consists of 6,000 original ink-wash drawings depicting the assault on idyllic villages by industrialization. For more information, visit the city's official Chinese New Year website at www.sydneychinesenewyear.com.au.

Singapore

Chinatown in Singapore will be illuminated in the annual Chinese New Year Light Up with thousands of lights and lanterns from January 3 to February 15, 2009 in honor of the new lunar year. Considered the most exciting event on the Singapore calendar, the Singaporeans celebrate in style with a selection of cultural activities, parades, nightly stage shows, restaurant banquets, shopping sales, and festive street stalls. The Huayi Chinese Festival of the Arts (www.huayifestival.com) takes place from January 30 to February 8, 2009 at the Esplanade. It showcases a wide variety of traditional, contemporary, mainstream and cutting edge performances by Chinese artists and offers both tickets events and free performances in indoor and outdoor venues. Over 500 stalls selling foods, traditional CNY gifts, flowers and decorations are set up along Pagoda, Smith, Sago, Temple, and Trengganu Street and People's Park Complex from January 3 to 25. Each night during those same weeks, Kreta Ayer Square next to Buddha Tooth Relic Temple ignites with live stage performances featuring music, dance, dragons and fireworks. On CNY eve (January 25) there's an official countdown party with local celebrities, firecrackers and fireworks on Eu Tong Sen Street and New Bridge Road.

The festival's signature event is the Chingay Parade (www.chingay.org.sg) which takes place over a two evenings on January 30 and 31, 2009 from City Hall to Raffles Avenue. The parade features 13 floats with 3,800 performers from 40 local organizations, four local international communities and cultural groups from eight countries. There are flamboyant costumes, ornate floats, dragons, giant puppets, martial artists, music and an all-night party atmosphere that continues on in a series of after parade parties throughout the city. For the best seats in the grandstands at City Hall or on Raffles Avenue you need to pre purchase tickets from the website. Ticket prices range from S$G33 to S$G68 including booking fee. Yuan Xiao Jie takes place on the 15th day of the New Year festival (February 7, 2009) and is considered the Chinese equivalent of Valentine's Day. Floats and performers from the Chingay Parade make their way to Chinatown for a full moon party that celebrates family, love and friendship. For information about these and other events taking place during CNY in Singapore visit www.visitsingapore.com/cny.

London

Gerrard Street in Soho is the center of London's Chinatown and it is there and on the pedestrianized areas of Newport Place and Macclesfield Street with their Chinese gates, street furniture, stone lions and Chinese pagodas that CNY has been celebrated on the first Sunday after the start of the new lunar calendar since the mid 1980s. The festivities have grown each year and attract such large numbers that the main celebrations now take place in Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square as well as throughout Chinatown, which is decorated with hundreds of traditional lanterns. The Year of the Ox will be marked in spectacular style on February 1, 2009 with a full program of Chinese arts and entertainment, food, firecrackers and fireworks. The festivities start at 11am with a two-hour grand parade of performers including dragons, lions and dancers traveling down The Strand, Charing Cross Road, and Shaftesbury Avenue. At Trafalgar Square, after an official opening ceremony at noon, the stage and big screen will feature Chinese dragons, traditional and contemporary music, dance, and martial arts plus special performances by artists from Qinghai and Kunming in China. Leicester Square will have displays of fireworks and firecrackers all afternoon and Chinatown and surrounding streets will be full of food and gift stalls. There will also be performances by local Chinese artists on Shaftesbury Avenue, an appearance by HaiBao, the mascot of the 2010 Shanghai World Expo and Chinatown's restaurants will be serving up special banquets for locals and visitors alike. For more information visit www.visitlondon.com/events/detail/1875235.