Trying as usual to immerse myself in all things Chinese, I went for the first time to see the Chinese New Year Parade through the streets of Sydney, which turned out to be charmingly hokey rather than professionally spectacular. Despite many hours of waiting jammed into a crowd there was much to like when the parade finally started at twilight. I did enjoy the Chengdu Pandas on unicycles, and some of the lanterns representing all the different animals of the lunar cycle, and of course there was the usual quota of lion and dragon dances. The things I found especially charming, though, were the slightly wonky floats and the sight of some rather stout older ladies running to catch up with their groups, with a little skip and hop here and there as they waved their fans at the crowd. Some of the groups from the corporate sponsors were very funny, with earnest looking bank tellers and office workers walking very seriously in step with the Chinese music. I had visions of them practising late into the night in the office. Ultimo Public School and Crown Street Public School also proved pretty high on the charm quotient, and the kids were obviously having a fantastic time.
I have no idea how this compares with being in a Chinese city for Spring Festival - not at all, I imagine. But it was good to be in George Street and to feel that yes, Sydney is an Asian city to a very large degree, with an extremely good-humoured crowd lining the barricades and cheering as different groups went past. The Australian Chinese veterans got an especially loud cheer, as did the Police Band. Different provinces were obviously well represented in the crowd, so cheers broke out from different quarters when the Guangdong Province Association, or the Fujian Association marched past. Bizarrely it all reminded me very much of the St Patrick's Day Parade in New York, which I was surprised to find included groups representing pretty much every ethnic group and/or professional group in the city, rather than being overwhelmingly Irish. Very inclusive!