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NSW: Big bovine looms large over Chinese New Year Festival

By Belinda Cranston
23 Jan 2009 2:49 PM

SYDNEY, Jan 23 AAP - A giant purple ox will greet revellers in Sydney at this year's Chinese New Year Festival, hoping to pass on some good fortune during tough times.

Organisers of the Sydney event are expecting 600,000 people to take part in the three-week festival to mark the Year of the Ox - the biggest celebration outside of Asia.

The plastic bovine will remain in Belmore Park near Chinatown until Sunday night and will reappear the following Sunday, February 1, when it joins other symbols of the zodiac in a parade through Sydney's streets.

One of the most important events in Chinese culture, new year is more than just about food and parties.

"It's about burying the hatchet and starting fresh on all levels with friends and work mates," one of the festival's ambassadors, Dr Cindy Pan said.

The first of many lion dances was performed in Belmore Park on Friday as Premier Nathan Rees and Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore helped launch the festival.

Covered with red sequins and white faux fur trimmings, with matching red eyes and flaring nostrils, the lion performed in scorching heat before the politicians.

"It's like an oven," one half of the lion, Brendan Cheung, 16, of Croydon, said when he removed part of the suit.

Joined by James Wu, 15, of Revesby, the boys will rotate the role of lion dancer with a group of boys from Sydney's Chinese Youth League over the next three weeks.

Homan Leung, 23 from Five Dock, played cymbals during the dance, hoping to help bring good fortune in the year ahead.

"The lion is like a symbol to scare away evil spirits or bad luck," he said.

"It also brings on good luck. The better the performance, the more luck it brings."

At dusk on February 1, Sydney's streets will host a procession of costumes, giant lanterns, lights and illuminated floats.

The twilight parade will feature 2,600 people, and showcases local performers and 500 performers from Henan province in China.

Local performers will include "dumplings" Tayla and twin sister Maddison Scannell, 12, from Matraville, dressed in costumes to resemble the ubiquitous Chinese snack.

The girls said they were not nervous, but were excited to be part of the parade which will end in Chinatown, followed by a fireworks display at nearby Cockle Bay.

Festival ambassador Jackie Chan said the Year of the Ox would bring "good natured patience combined with physical stamina to influence the year."

"The Sydney Chinese New Year Festival is a great opportunity to celebrate Chinese culture and heritage, eat delicious food, and be entertained by talented performers," she said.