Saturday, January 19, 2008

5:00AM Saturday January 19, 2008
By Lincoln Tan

New Year celebrations in the old style have been maintained by Chinese communities around the world. Photo / Reuters
The organisers of a 20-year-old festival to celebrate Chinese New Year in Auckland are dismayed by the establishment of a second festival, saying it will confuse the public.

The Auckland Chinese Community Centre, organisers of the established event, and World Television, organisers of the second event, are both claiming theirs is the main event.

Prime Minister Helen Clark is scheduled to attend both.

World Television has in previous years promoted the ACCC event but this year is promoting only its own festival on its New Zealand television channels and radio stations.

"For 20 years, the ACCC has been organising the festival, so of course I'm shocked that someone else can come out and say that the one they are organising for the first time is the main show," said Kai Luey, event organiser and president of the New Zealand Chinese Association.

ACCC immediate past-president Thomas Do told the Herald that he had paid for at least five full-page advertisements in local Chinese newspapers to correct that confusion.

WTV director Henry Chan said there was no conflict because the events were taking place at different venues and at different times.

He added the Chinese community was was happy that there were more events to go to during the Chinese festive season.

The celebrations last more than a month. The Year of the Rat starts on February 7.

The ACCC festival will take place at the ASB Showgrounds today, while the WTV fair will be held in Manukau in a fortnight.

Today's highlights include lion dancing, meeting the Beijing Olympic mascots and a rare face-changing act, something Mr Luey says is rarely seen outside China.

The fanfare nowadays is a far cry from when Goh Chan Koh first moved to New Zealand 19 years ago.

Coming from Penang, Malaysia - where festivities included public concerts and fairs, blasting fire crackers and exchanging lucky red packets and mandarin oranges among friends and family - she was surprised to find Chinese New Year was not celebrated here.

Now, there is plenty of activity, said Ms Goh. "For immigrants who do not have family here, celebrations will have more meaning if they had more places to go to."

Mr Luey, a local-born Chinese, explained that until recently Chinese New Year celebrations had been family affairs.

It was because of this that the Auckland Chinese Community Centre organised the first Chinese New Year fair 20 years ago to give local Chinese a place where they could celebrate the festival together.


What's on:

* Today: ACCC Chinese New Year Festival. ASB Showgrounds, 9.30am to 3.30pm.

* Feb 3: Chinese New Year Multicultural Festival, Telstra Clear Events Centre, 9am.

* Feb 16: Chinese New Year Racing Carnival, Ellerslie Race Course. First race 10am.

* Feb 22-24: Auckland Lantern Festival, Albert Park. 5.30pm to 10pm.

* All events are free

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