Sydney: Lunar Festival Celebrates Year of The Ox


Sydney’s Lunar New Year celebrations may be socially-distanced and COVID-safe this year, but the Harbour City promises a feast for the senses as it prepares to welcome the Year of the Ox.

The Lunar Festival kicks off today and includes more than 80 events and attractions – including giant glowing lanterns, markets, a lion dance workshop, concerts, talks and food – around Chinatown, Circular Quay and the Rocks.

Sydney usually hosts the second-largest lunar new year celebrations outside China, but this year, some local governments have scaled back or postponed some events.

Near the harbour foreshore, however, there will be an abundance of food and festivities to celebrate the Year of the Ox, the second animal in the Chinese zodiac cycle.

People born in the Year of the Ox are considered honest, hardworking and kind.

Though many Western nations refer to the Lunar New Year/Spring Festival holiday as Chinese New Year, it’s actually celebrated in various Asian countries.

In Vietnam, it’s known as Tet and the gracious water buffalo takes the place of the Ox. Tibetan New Year is called Losar, while Koreans celebrate Seollal with bottomless bowls of tteokguk, a sliced rice cake soup.

Countries that observe Lunar New Year often have three to seven days of public holidays, but celebrations aren’t complete until the 15th day of the first lunar month, also known as the Lantern Festival.

What’s On In Sydney

Sydney’s Lunar Year celebrations run until February 21 and are spread throughout the CBD from Chinatown to the Rocks.

They’ll also include special festivities at Chatswood in the north and Hurstville in the south. Traditional events at Cabramatta have been cancelled this year.

Lunar New Year Lantern Walk

Stroll from Circular Quay to Chinatown and admire the larger-than-life light Lunar Lanterns that represent the 12 animal signs of the Lunar zodiac.

Keep an eye out for the giant Ox adorned with an endless knot necklace to symbolise good luck, as well as the big Tiger at First Fleet Park in The Rocks, the Pig outside Customs House and the Snake under the Cahill Expressway at Circular Quay.

City of Sydney has commissioned various artists to take part this year, including Claudia Chan Shaw and her tower of nine golden Rat robots.

You can find a self-guided Lunar Lanterns walk on the City of Sydney’s Culture Walks app, which can be downloaded for free from the App Store and the Google Play Store.

The Rocks

Sizzling Asian street food, roaming lion dancers, glowing red lanterns, live performers and bustling stalls will welcome you to The Rocks Lunar Markets this year.

Wander the stalls selling art, homewares and textiles or enjoy free calligraphy making, mahjong and Chinese Zodiac readings (11-2pm) at The Rocks Square.

Right in the heart of all this vibrant activity at Kendall Lane, a gigantic ox in a china shop display will hang from the sky among lanterns and lights to commemorate the Lunar New Year.

The markets are at Playfair Street in The Rocks and are open Fridays and Saturdays between 10am and 9pm and on Sundays from 10am to 5pm.


Dixon Street in Chinatown has two 2.4m high Ox sculptures (pictured above), designed by Sydney artist Chrissy Lau, that reimagine the reliable Ox to be like the Japanese maneki-neko, or beckoning cat.

Also in Chinatown, look out for the Lantern Curtain (pictured) – a display of 660 colourful suspended lanterns promising a high-impact day and night transformation of the space during the festival.

If you want to get to know Sydney’s historic Haymarket area and Chinatown better, book your spot on the Chinatown walkabout organised by longtime resident Doug Lam.

Starting at 455 Pitt St, Haymarket, the walk will take in various locations and lift the lid on the secrets of Chinese-Australian history. The tour costs $10 but bookings are essential.

Perhaps you’d prefer a self-guided tour where you can eat your way through the heart of Chinatown, from February 8 to March 12.

Secret Snacks is an online and street campaign by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art to get more diners onto the streets of Chinatown, and eat their way around the historic precinct.

Top Asian-Australian creatives like writer Benjamin Law, chef Kylie Kwong and artist James Jirat Patradoon give you some of their hand-picked favourite restaurants and dishes to look out for.

Law chooses Boon Cafe’s crab congee while Jirat Patradoon singles out Gumshara’s tonkotsu ramen with pork spare rib for. Kwong nominates Chat Thai’s som dtum as her go-to Chinatown dish.

Chinese Garden of Friendship

Get a personalised Chinese horoscope reading and enjoy a range of workshops from crafts for kids to tea tastings and meditations, calligraphy, brush painting and more when you visit the Chinese Garden of Friendship this Lunar New Year.

Write your hopes and dreams on a pink Year of the Ox bookmark and hang it among others in the garden. Or enjoy a Lunar New Year Banquet and Lion Dance.

Entry to the Chine Garden of Friendship costs $8 for adults, $4 for children under 12, or $20 for a family of four.


The Oxapalooza Festival at World Square (644 George Street) will feature electric art and entertainment, a Lucky 8 Coin Hunt with a $10,000 prize pool, and all the food you can dream of.

Din Tai Fung will be serving up masked ox-shaped chocolate buns in addition to Yusheng (prosperity toss salad), red-coloured Wagyu beef dumplings and a Lunar New Year frozen hamper until February 28.


Chatswood will feature a jam-packed program to welcome the Year of the Ox, including a comedy night, art exhibition and all-day Lunar markets in the mall.

Join the Festival Eats Food Trail and discover why Chatswood is considered a world-renowned food hub. Or head to Mills Lane to admire a light art installation called Hearing From You.

Created by Luke Hespanhol and Yuxin Huang, the work features multiple LED displays scattered showing fragments of personal messages expressed by or to the artists during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Little Lunar night market kicks off on Friday February 19 at 5.30pm, featuring Malaysian food stalls, lion dancing, dragon beard candy making and Chinese opera.

Or check out Sydney Dumpling King (173 Forest Road) for their mouth-watering pork buns, siu mai and rib-sticking wonton soup.


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