Firecrackers, flashes of colour and delicious Oriental dishes were the order of the day as celebrations on Tyneside marked Chinese New Year.
Crowds gathered at Newcastle’s Chinatown as cymbals and drums accompanied a parade at the city’s Stowell Street – a centre for Tyneside’s Chinese community.
The Year of the Horse officially began on February 1 but was welcomed in around a week late after the Tyne-Wear derby took precedence the previous weekend.
Despite the delay, people flocked to the city centre and braved drizzly weather to enjoy all things Chinese.
The day began with the spectacle of the tradition dragon, lion and unicorn dances beneath the Chinese ceremonial arch.
Julie Sampson, a 25-year-old administrator from Benton, watched the parade with her three-year-old daughter, Jemima, said: “It’s great that we make such a show of Chinese New Year here. It helps people – young and old – to learn more about Chinese culture and it looks really impressive.”
Stephanie Spark, 23, a barperson from Hazlerigg, said: “There are lots of Chinese people living in the area so this is really good for the people who can’t travel to be in China. It’s also a bit of culture for everyone here.”
Melissa Richmond, 19 and from Slatyford, Newcastle, said: “Celebrating Chinese New Year is about seeing different cultures. There is always a big crowd that comes down because people are always really interested.”
There were also performances at the Bath Lane Stage where red envelopes containing lucky money – a tradition in many Asian cultures where a small amount of cash is distributed on a special occasion – were handed out.
Meanwhile at The Chinese Centre on Westgate Road, activities included a Chinese market and fairground, Chinese zodiac readings, calligraphy, calendar-making and fortune telling.
A special children’s marquee at Thornton Square also offered traditional Chinese arts and crafts, including the chance to learn how to write your own name in Chinese.
The Chinese New Year festival programme, organised by the Newcastle Gateshead Initiative (NGI), was supported by the Confucius Institute at Newcastle University, a joint venture between Newcastle and Xiamen University in China that promotes cultural exchanges.
Carol Bell, head of culture and major events at NGI, said: “The Chinese New Year celebrations in Newcastle are some of the biggest in the North of England.
“Thanks to the passion and enthusiasm from the Chinese community in the region, everyone can play a part in the celebrations and learn more about the fascinating culture and heritage of our Chinese residents.”