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Hair-raising celebrations for Chinese New Year

Hanging a lettuce in your shop doorway and ordering a lion dance is just one way Chinese business owners will welcome the Chinese New Year, to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck.

Kippo hair salon owner Philip Li says haircuts are traditionally seen as lucky, but if you have your hair chopped too close to Chinese New Year you are said to be stripping away your fortune.

Mr Li invites lion dancers to perform outside his shop in Haymarket every Lunar New Year to ward off any bad luck and bring his shop and his customers good fortune for the coming year.

“We have 40 to 50 per cent more business in the weeks before Chinese New Year – about 350 customers per week!”

“But many customers choose not to cut their hair until the 15th day of the first month of the Chinese New Year because it is said to bring bad luck to uncles.”

Before a lion dance takes place, he hangs a lettuce at the entrance to his shop with a red packet containing money. In the traditional custom of ‘plucking of the greens’ or ‘cai qing’, the lion dancers chew up the lettuce and then take the money as a reward for warding off evil spirits.

Some lion dancers receive $500 to $600 for one dance, but the amount depends on how successful the business is and the proprietor’s desire to keep that good fortune.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said community traditions such as lion dancing were at the heart of the festival’s beginnings in Sydney 22 years ago, and continue to be an important part of the celebrations.

“The lion dancing, dragon boat racing and fireworks create an electric atmosphere in and around Chinatown,” the Lord Mayor said.

“Well over a million people will take this opportunity to invite good fortune, try out the incredible array of food and shopping, and welcome in the Year of the Dog.”

In Chinatown, the Dixon Street Chinese Committee also organises lion dances for its 13 streets, shopping centres and pedestrian areas, including around 200 shops.

Dixon Street Chinese Committee organiser, King Fong, said: “We hire lion dancers so that good luck will continue without interruptions of bad luck.

“Lion dancing is an important and longstanding tradition – it has been going on in Hong Kong for more than 1,000 years. Chinese gold exploring in Australia started in 1850 and lion dances began about 1870 in Sydney and Melbourne,” Mr Fong said.

Sydney’s shopping centres are celebrating Chinese New Year to full effect, including the QVB, Westfield and World Square.

World Square, near Chinatown, is presenting an Australian-first with an augmented reality app featuring an intricate virtual dragon that twists and twirls its way around the square. Collecting 15 virtual red packets through the app wins you a gold packet that enters you into a prize draw – and you can take a selfie with the dragon.

John Fairbairn, general manager at World Square, said: “The City of Sydney’s Chinese New Year Festival attracts tens of thousands of international and interstate visitors each year.

“As a venue that skews towards a young Asian demographic, being a part of the city-wide program presents us with one of the biggest opportunities in retail outside of western calendar events such as Christmas.

“Mainland China was the second biggest source of tourists to Australia in 2016 and has grown 26 per cent year on year to more than 1 million.

“Chinese tourists spend 25 per cent more than any other tourist customer, according to research conducted by Tourism Australia,” Mr Fairbairn said.

At Westfield Sydney cultural celebrations include free tai chi classes in Pitt Street mall, complimentary tea tasting at Ladurée and trees decorated in red and gold on every floor.

The QVB will welcome Chinese New Year with an interactive installation, free dog portraits from renowned illustrator Belinda Xia, Lunar New Year exclusives from leading retailers and a WeChat campaign with gifts and offers.

QVB marketing manager Clare-Marie Martinez said: “This year we wanted to capture the joy dogs bring in an innovative way, highlighting the key traits of the Year of the Dog – generosity, loyalty and kindness.”

Sydney Chinese New Year 2018 celebrations run from 16 February to 4 March. For more information see sydneychinesenewyear.com

Source: City of Sydney

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