Giant animal lanterns to welcome Chinese New Year in Sydney

The 20th Sydney Chinese New Year Festival will welcome the Year of the Monkey in magnificent style.

From 6 to 21 February, Sydney will come alive with the sights, sounds and tastes of Asia in one the biggest celebrations of the Lunar New Year outside of mainland China. The City of Sydney expects more than 600,000 visitors from Sydney, interstate and overseas.

The City of Sydney, with the support of its Principal Partner Westpac, will be painting the town red for Chinese New Year.

One of the festival highlights, the inaugural Lunar Lanterns exhibition, will begin this Saturday (6 February) when the City lights lanterns representing 12 animal signs of the zodiac in some of Sydney’s most iconic locations for the first time at 8pm.

The lanterns, designed by Chinese-Australian artists including Laurens Tan, Fan Dongwang, Tianli Zu, Hu Ming, Claudia Chan Shaw and Justin Qian, include: three eight-metre high wise monkeys outside the Opera House; a majestic ox made with 700 mahjong tiles in Martin Place; a giant happy tiger lantern in the QVB forecourt; 14 giant rabbits at Customs House; and a Goat lantern gifted from the City of Guangzhou in Chinatown.

The exhibition will run for nine days and nights to 14 February and is designed to be equally impressive regardless of the time of day.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the transformation of the CBD provided the ideal opportunity to revitalise and reimagine one of Sydney’s most loved festivals.

“The City is excited to present the Lunar Lanterns exhibition for the first time along with a great line-up of entertainment and performances,” said the Lord Mayor.

“The whole city will come alive this Lunar New Year with 80 family friendly events hosted everywhere from The Rocks to Chippendale, Surry Hills to Glebe, Chinatown and Darling Harbour.

“Last year’s Lanterns of the Terracotta Warriors was a huge success. This year, the new Lunar Lanterns will ensure Sydney’s 2016 Chinese New Year is bigger and better than ever.

“Everyone is invited to the city this Saturday evening (6 February) to see the Lunar Lanterns light up for the first time at 8pm. The Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House, Circular Quay Station, Sydney Town Hall and Capitol Theatre will also be lit red – an historic first to welcome the 2016 Lunar New Year.”

The City of Sydney and Westpac are painting the town red with the world-famous iconic structures including the sails of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge that will glow the lucky red colour for three nights from the festival launch on Saturday 6 February through to Chinese New Year’s Eve on Sunday 7 February, and Chinese New Year’s Day on Monday 8 February.

Sydney Town Hall, Capitol Theatre and Dockside Pavilion will be illuminated red for the entire festival and visitors to the city will be invited to step into another world beneath a swaying ceiling of glowing lanterns in Martin Place where they can meet up with friends, grab a drink and a bite to eat at the Westpac Lunar Lantern Hub.

Bernadette Inglis, Westpac’s General Manager for Retail and Premium Bank, said Westpac is excited to partner with the City of Sydney to celebrate Lunar New Year across the country with the Asian community.

“Westpac is delighted to get behind one of the largest Lunar New Year celebrations outside China and recognise the remarkable contribution the Chinese community brings to Australia. Westpac’s support of this vibrant collection of festivities is testament to our longstanding relationship with our multicultural customers, and our world-class service that helps our customers to build a successful life in Australia.”

Led by a team of professional choreographers and dance captains, 1,000 performers will take part in the Lunar Lanterns community program at four lantern locations nightly from 10–14 February.

The City’s Chinese New Year Festival curator, Claudia Chan Shaw, said the community is the heart of the festival and this year’s program is a huge opportunity toshowcase local talent and promote these organisations.

“The Lunar Lanterns community program features more than 20 hours of performances – that’s seven times more than the old Twilight Parade – and will be unlike anything else you’ve seen before,” Ms Chan Shaw said.

“Lanterns will flank the entrance to Circular Quay, transform the business heart of Martin Place and illuminate the bustling streets of Chinatown. Everyone can follow the trail to find their zodiac sign, see a performance or enjoy a Lunar Feast in a uniquely Sydney celebration of the Lunar New Year.”

Visitors can download the Sydney Cultural Walks app for a fun, easy way to navigate their way to each Lunar Lantern.

The complete Sydney Chinese New Year Festival program can be found at

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Lunar Lanterns is a highlight event of Sydney’s Chinese New Year celebrations which runs from 6–21 February. The festival includes favourite events like the Dragon Boat Races, Lunar Feasts and more than 80 associated events.

Cure Brain Cancer Foundation is the official charity partner of the 2016 Chinese New Year Festival.

The City’s partners include Principal Partner Westpac and Leadership Partner The Star, Sydney.

Festival highlights include:

Lunar Lanterns, various locations, 6–14 February

  • Giant lanterns representing animal signs of the Chinese Zodiac will grace some of Sydney’s most popular locations for 9 days and 9 nights.
  • Lunar Lanterns is a contemporary take on a centuries-old tradition, with some lanterns standing several stories high and located throughout the city from Circular Quay to Chinatown.

Lunar Lanterns Community Performance Program, various locations, 10–14 February, 6pm–7.00pm

  • Led by a team of professional choreographers and dance captains, 1,000 performers will take part in the Lunar Lanterns community program at various lantern locations
  • Community is the heart of the festival and, with the spectacular Lunar Lanterns as backdrops, the programshowcases local talents and community organisations in over 20 hours of performance.

Westpac Painting the town red, various locations, 6–21 February, 8pm–midnight

  • Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House and Circular Quay station – Saturday 6 to Monday 8 February
  • Sydney Town Hall – Saturday 6 to Sunday 21 February
  • Capitol Theatre, courtesy of The Sound of Music – Saturday 6 to Sunday 21 February.

Westpac Lunar Lantern Hub, Martin Place, 614 February

  • Martin Place will light up under the glow of a 50-metre-long canopy of red lanterns.
  • Try your luck in a game of Mahjong at The Star’s Fortune Garden or have a drink at the Monkey Shoulder Whisky Bar before continuing on your journey around the Lunar Lanterns.

Lunar Feasts, various locations, 6–21 February

  • Around 40 of Sydney’s best Asian restaurants offer set-price meals and Lunar New Year inspired menus – everything from a vegan banquet to yum cha.

Dragon Boat Races, Cockle Bay, Darling Harbour, 20 and 21 February

  • More than 3,000 paddlers will churn up the water in 12-metre-long boats, featuring an ornately carved dragon head and tail. Thousands of spectators will line the banks of Cockle Bay to watch the boats battle it out in the southern hemisphere’s largest dragon boat racing festival.
  • Celebrity Dragon Boat Race – Official charity partner for City of Sydney’s Chinese New Year Cure Brain Cancer Foundation is proud to have celebrities including Prof Charlie Teo, Jim Wilson (Ch7), Johnny Ruffo (Ch7), Richard Wilkins (Ch9) and Ben Fordham (2GB) paddling in their boat. To sponsor the boat visit
    2016 Sydney Chinese New Year Festival – key facts and stats
  • Sydney’s Chinese New Year Festival started 20 years ago as a small community event in Chinatown attended by only a few hundred people.
  • The festival today attracts more than 600,000 visitors to more than 80 events across the city over 16 days and nights, making it one of the most popular events in Sydney’s calendar and the largest celebration of Lunar New Year outside mainland China.
  • 1,000 performers take part in this year’s Community Performance Program with five nights of entertainment at various lantern locations.
  • More than 3,000 paddlers will churn up the water in 12-metre-long boats at the Dragon Boat Races, the largest dragon boat meet in the southern hemisphere.
  • Since it began in Sydney, the City has produced 108 events for the Chinese New Year Festival, supported more than 600 associated events and hosted 10 delegations from China to be part of the celebrations.

For media inquiries or images, contact City of Sydney Event Publicist Sandy Ellison on 02 8974 4142 or email or Senior Publicist Elaine Kelly on 02 9265 9201 or email

For interviews with Lord Mayor Clover Moore, contact Paul Mackay on 0432 182 647 or email