The Hills community to welcome in Year of the Wooden Horse

HEAD to Don Moore Reserve this Saturday to see The Hills mayor Michelle Byrne dot in the eyes of a lion.

The traditional Chinese ceremony, known as kai guang in Mandarin, will wake the lion and mark the start of the area's first Lunar New year celebration.

"This is an event that will celebrate Asian culture but I really think this is an event the entire community should share in," Cr Byrne said.

Helen Smith, of Baulkham Hills, is among those who can't wait to welcome in the Year of the Wooden Horse with the rest of the community.

"We will do a fan and umbrella dance; some members will sing, and others will play the erhu [a Chinese two-string fiddle] and bamboo flute," Mrs Smith, 74, a Shanghai native and founder of the Association of Mandarin Speaking Residents In The Hills, said.

The traditional dotting of the lion's eyes at 5pm will be followed by a lion dance, and the event will close with a traditional Chinese fireworks display.

There will also be Chinese films, performances from traditional dance and singing groups, food stalls, fire twirling, fruit carving and lantern-making.

More than 10 per cent of people in The Hills speak either Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean or Vietnamese at home.

"In suburbs like Carlingford and North Rocks, that number is as high as 36 per cent," Cr Byrne said.

‘‘We’re lucky to live in such a multicultural country where we’re exposed to all these different cultures, forms of art, cuisine and films."

■ The Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year or Spring Festival, began on Saturday with celebrations lasting 15 days.

■ The inaugural Hills Lunar Festival is this Saturday, February 8 from 5pm, in Don Moore Reserve, Tiernan Avenue, North Rocks. Details: 98430190 or visit thehills.nsw.gov.au.

■ Cherrybrook Chinese Community Association holds its annual Chinese New Year banquet this Sunday, February 9 at the Terrace Restaurant, Castle Hill.

JOIN the Association of Mandarin Speaking Residents In The Hills:

If it wasn’t for Helen Smith there might not be a local social group for Mandarin speakers.

‘‘When I walked through the shopping centre and I saw a Chinese face, I introduced myself,’’ Mrs Smith, of Baulkham Hills, said.

She said every new migrant shared with her the same story: they didn’t know anyone, couldn’t speak English, didn’t know how to find information.

‘‘They all felt very lonely,’’ Mrs Smith said.

So she invited them home — until two years ago when Castle Hill RSL stepped in to help the Association of Mandarin Speaking Residents In The Hills.

The 60-strong seniors group now meets every Friday, 9am to 12.30pm, at the RSL for tai chi, ochre painting, dancing, singing, games of mahjong and snooker.

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