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Giant puppy and red sails usher in Year of the Dog at Sydney Opera House

Chinese New Year at the Sydney Opera House on January 27, 2017 in Australia. (Photo by Anna Kucera)
Written by Aksel Ritenis

Growing numbers of international visitors and Sydneysiders expected to join the celebrations on Bennelong Point as part of city-wide 2018 Chinese New Year Festival

Sydney – Monday 12 February, 2018. From Friday 16 February, the Opera House will usher in the Year of the Dog with sails lit lucky red, a giant eight-metre Lunar Lantern of man’s best friend – complete with wagging tail – Chinese musicians, Asian-inspired dining, Mandarin-language tours and a glowing wishing tree.

Created by Chinese-Australian artist Song Ling, the multi-coloured illuminated dog lantern is the centerpiece of the City of Sydney’s popular Lunar Lanterns exhibition, which lights up Circular Quay and last year attracted record crowds of more than 950,000 people.

Sydney’s 16-day Lunar New Year festivities are already one of the largest celebrations outside mainland China with 1.4 million visitors last year, and 2018 is expected to be the biggest year yet.


NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said: “Lunar New Year festivities are a wonderful celebration of the contribution that Chinese and Asian cultures make to our multicultural nation. Lighting the sails of the Opera House red to mark the Year of the Dog is a fantastic way to bring communities together.”


Jade McKellar, Sydney Opera House Director of Visitor Experience, said: “Man’s best friend will bring good fortune and prosperity to the Sydney Opera House and its visitors, making the Opera House a must-see destination to usher in the Year of the Dog. The entire precinct will come to life with special Chinese New Year events and activities to bring local and international visitors together, from picture perfect photo opportunities to music and delicious dining.”

Chinese New Year at the Sydney Opera House on January 27, 2017 in Australia. (Photo by Anna Kucera)

In line with latest figures from Tourism Australia predicting that China is set to become Australia’s largest inbound tourism market, the Opera House has seen significant growth in Mandarin-language tours over recent years. The tours are now taken by one in five Chinese visitors to Sydney, and attracted more than 161,000 guests in 2017. A total of 25,000 Chinese visitors are expected to take a Mandarin-language tour during the upcoming Lunar New Year period.


“The Lunar New Year festivities build on our growing year-round program of tours and dining experiences for Chinese tourists,” continued Jade McKellar. “They provide a chance for not only international visitors but also Sydneysiders to experience the Opera House in an entirely new way.”

What’s On


Red sails: Thursday 15 – Friday 16 February
The Opera House’s sails will be lit auspicious red, symbolising good fortune and happiness, to celebrate Chinese New Year eve and the opening night of the city-wide Chinese New Year Festival.

Year of the Dog Lunar Lantern: Friday 16 February – Sunday 25 February
It’s not every day you can hang out with man’s best friend on the Opera House’s Western Broadwalk. Snap a picture of the lantern by day or night. Now in its third consecutive year, the Lunar Lanterns exhibition, curated by Claudia Chan Shaw, features the work of some of Australia’s most exciting contemporary Chinese-Australian artists including Year of the Dog lantern artist Song Ling.

Chinese orchestral performances: Thursday 15 February & Thursday 1 March
China’s rich culture will be explored on the world-famous Concert Hall stage, with a selection of leading Chinese and Australian singers and talented guest musicians from China and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in ‘East Meets West – Chinese Lunar New Year’s Eve Gala Concert’ and ‘Treasures of a Nation – Chinese New Year Concert’, a performance by the prestigious Chinese Orchestra of China National Opera and Dance Drama Theater.

Lunar Eats: Friday 16 February – Sunday 4 March
Settle in to enjoy the sunset over sumptuous Asian-inspired meals at the Opera House’s onsite restaurants before exploring the Lunar Lantern walk:

  • Opera Bar: Steamed scallops with lemongrass, ginger & soy ($24 for half a dozen) + prawn and sesame toast, chilli dipping sauce ($15)
  • Portside SydneyShanghai Braised Pork belly with steamed fragrant rice, served with a glass of wine ($20)
  • The Lounge: Selection of  chicken & mushroom, prawn, vegetable dumplings ($13)
  • Mandarin-language Sydney Opera House Tours:  Friday 16 February – Sunday 4 March Step beneath the sails of this World Heritage-listed masterpiece to discover its awe-inspiring architecture, dramatic history, and insider secrets on a one-hour tour. Visitors during Chinese New Year can ensure a prosperous year ahead by hanging a wish of their choice on the luminous 2.8 metre wishing tree under the steps.


About the author

Aksel Ritenis

Publisher and Custodian of the Sydney Times

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