Chester's Chinese New Year celebrations Year of the Rat

13 January 2020

Chester will celebrate the Chinese New Year of the Rat on Saturday, 25 January with a parade of traditional Chinese lion and dragon dancing, Tai Chi performance and celebratory cultural characters from Bridge Street, culminating with multicultural performances in the Storyhouse and celebration banquet at the Slowboat Restaurant.

The God of Prosperity, The Emperor of Heaven and The Happy Buddha will take to the city streets on Saturday morning in an event delivered by the Wah Lei Chinese Association supported by the council, the Bank of America and the Slowboat Restaurant. Preparations are already well under way with rehearsals involving cultural dancing, singing, poetry recital, martial arts practices including a special performance with Tai Chi Panda at the Storyhouse. 

The festival begins at 11am at Bridge Street and will include a Tai Chi demonstration from the Ji Siu Tai Chi Chuan based in Handbridge, followed by the waking of the Lions to dance and parade through Chester city centre together with a giant dragon to arrive at the Storyhouse at 12pm to kick off the cultural performances in the community space next to the restaurant.

Mia Tan, Chair and Founder of the Wah Lei Chinese Association said: “Our volunteers have been rehearsing for months to perform at the festival, in the Storyhouse and the Slowboat Restaurant. We are grateful for the generous support and to be working in partnership with the council, the Bank of America, the Slowboat Restaurant and the Storyhouse to produce this colourful celebration festival. A public collection on the day is in support of the Bank of America’s nominated charity Honey Pot, which provides residential respite for young carers across the country, including a North Wales location.”

Councillor Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council said: “I’d like to wish everyone a happy new year of the Rat. Please come and join the festivities in the city centre and Storyhouse. Chinese New Year is the first of many exciting events taking place in Chester this year.”

Jeremy St. John Brown, Senior Vice President at Bank of America, Chester said: “We are delighted to once again be part of the Chinese New year Parade in Chester. Having a diverse and inclusive workforce is integral to our business and events such as this offer important opportunities to recognise, celebrate and promote diversity in our community.”

The Chinese New Year is the most important celebration in the Chinese zodiac calendar and follows a 12-year cycle. Chinese legend states that The Emperor of Heaven asked all the animals to meet him on New Year’s Day and named a year after each of the twelve animals that came. Volunteers in traditional costumes will be distributing red packets, called “Hung Boas”, symbolising gifts of prosperity, which are filled with gold covered chocolate coins to children attending the festival celebrations. As part of their commitment to sustainability and to reduce their carbon footprint, the Wah Lei and its partners have decided to wake up the Lions with a String of none combustible firecrackers, accompanied by amplified firecracker sound and with the help of pupils and volunteers drumming and banging gongs in Bridge Street.

There will be a celebration banquet after the parade at the Slowboat restaurant on Frodsham Street at 1pm. Tables must be pre booked directly with the Slowboat Restaurant on 01244 317873, by quoting “Wah Lei”.

The Wah Lei Chinese Association is also supported by Cheshire, Halton and Warrington Race & Equality Centre, the University of Chester, Chester Voluntary Action, and are members of UKFCS (UK Federation of Chinese Schools).

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