Lion dance welcomes new year with pride

THE crowd at yesterday's Chinese new year celebration was blessed by a golden Chinese lion as Wei-siong Liang and his troupe demonstrated their physical ability.

It was the second new year event to be held at Launceston's Tsing Wah Asian Grocers, and had grown considerably, according to store manager Anthony Kwong.

``Last year we had about 200 people, I think we would have had about three times as many this year,'' Mr Kwong said.

``I will be looking to turn it into a mini festival in the laneway here, but we will first need council approval.''

Chinese new year falls on the 28th month of the lunisolar year and is celebrated widely across Asia.

Mr Liang said a diverse audience attended yesterday's event.

``About half of the people that came were Caucasian,'' he said.

``Chinese new year is about the gathering of the community, everybody is welcome - it's sort of like thanksgiving.''

Bubble tea, yum cha and horfun were served to the crowd as part of the day's international cuisine.

``I think we will aim to have about 800 people next year,'' Mr Kwong said.

``We will hold it every year, we're happy to give to people that have given to us.'' 

Meanwhile, a billion-plus Asians ushered in the Year of the Snake with fireworks, after a Chinese TV gala featuring megastars including Celine Dion kicked off a week of festivities. 

From Australia to South Korea, millions of people travelled huge distances to reunite with their families for lunar new year - the most important holiday of the year for many in Asia - indulging in feasts and celebrations. 

As the clock struck midnight, Beijing's skyline lit up with colour as residents braved freezing temperatures to set off loud fireworks, traditionally believed to ward off evil spirits - a scene repeated across China. But this year reportedly saw a sharp reduction in the sale of fireworks as heavy smog in recent weeks stoked fears that Beijing's notorious air pollution levels could worsen during the festival.

In Sydney, fireworks announced the lunar new year. But the city's major event, the annual Twilight Parade, will be held next weekend.

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