Countdown on for Chinese New Year

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The 'opening eye' ceremony in Liverpool to herald the upcoming Chinese New Year. Pic by Gemma Abbey © JMU Journalism

The ‘opening eye’ ceremony in Liverpool to herald the upcoming Chinese New Year. Pic by Gemma Abbey © JMU Journalism

Celebrations marking the Chinese New Year began at the weekend as around 200 hundred people gathered in Chinatown to witness the traditional ‘opening eye’ ceremony.

This time 10 new lions have been shipped in from China to be used in the Chinese New Year annual parade, which will be held in Liverpool on Sunday February 22nd.

As a custom, the lions must be blessed before they can be used in the event and representatives from 10 different Chinese communities came together ahead of the Year of the Goat festivities.

During the ceremony the representatives brush a paste onto the lion’s eyes to awaken them from their sleep and its spirit comes alive. The crowd were treated to a colourful and musical performance as the lions woke from their slumber.

The dance was performed by students of Liverpool Hung Gar Kung Fu School who form part of their parade in Liverpool every year. For Stephen Ornellas, 51, who runs the Kung Fu school, this will mark his 36th year of both teaching and performing the traditional lion dance at the event.

He told JMU Journalism: “Today’s open eye ceremony is a bigger deal this year as we don’t usually have the opportunity to introduce as many as 10 new lions, usually only one or two. So I see today as an opportunity to unite the 10 different Chinese communities, bringing them together.

The 'opening eye' ceremony in Liverpool to herald the upcoming Chinese New Year. Pic by Gemma Abbey © JMU Journalism

The ‘opening eye’ ceremony in Liverpool to herald the upcoming Chinese New Year. Pic by Gemma Abbey © JMU Journalism

“This traditional ceremony is important to the Chinese community and the lions have come from all different parts of China.”

Stephen took on the role of running the Liverpool Kung Fu school in 1989 after the death of Master Jimmy Chan, who was Stephens’s teacher at the club, and he has continued teaching martial arts and the lion dance to anyone who is willing to learn.

This city has the oldest Chinese community in Europe and the entrance of the Chinatown is landmarked by the beautifully-crafted traditional Chinese arch, which commemorates the twinning of  Liverpool with Shanghai.

About Gemma Abbey, JMU Journalism