Chinese people living in Marlborough will celebrate their most important festival, Chinese New Year, with family, friends and food this week.
One of those is Lei Zhang, from the Anhui province in Eastern China, who last night put on a huge traditional dinner for about 40 Chinese people living in Marlborough.
Spare ribs, sweet pork and vegetables, and chicken dishes were on the menu as the group of friends and family got together to celebrate the New Year's Eve, and gave smaller children in the group money for good luck.
Chinese New Year marks the beginning of the lunar year, and is normally in the first week of February. Celebrating the festival was even more important now Mr Zhang and his family did not live in China, he said.
"If you're overseas and you have a special day, it's your country's day – you want to remember it. It's the most important day of the year because it's about family, just like Christmas here."
Mr Zhang said five years ago there were about 200 Chinese people living in Blenheim, but that was now down to about 50 because of the economic climate.
The Chinese no longer came to New Zealand for working holidays because the recession had made travelling expensive, he said.
Mr Zhang moved to Blenheim in 2003 to work as a vineyard supervisor. He now plans to open a Chinese restaurant, in Alfred St, on February 10.
Bamboo Garden Restaurant, on Maxwell Rd, Blenheim, also has a special Chinese New Year menu starting tonight and running until Saturday night.
Food includes dumplings, duck and barbecue kebabs, and bookings are essential.
This year marks the year of the rabbit, but a restaurant spokesman said no rabbit was on the menu.
At the time of the 2006 Census, 180 people of Chinese ethnicity were living in Marlborough, and 639 people in the district identified with being of Asian decent.
Chinese New Year is celebrated across Asia by many countries that have a large number of Chinese living there.
- The Marlborough Express CLAIRE CONNELL
Last updated 12:00 03/02/2011
HAPPY NEW YEAR: Lei Zhang, of Blenheim, welcomes in the Chinese New Year. Photo: BEN CURRAN