This weekend hundreds of members of the Bay of Plenty Chinese community will get together to celebrate Chinese New Year.

Chinese New Year started on February 8 but this weekend's event is set to coincide with the Lantern Festival which is on the 15th day of the Chinese New Year.

The Chinese Commerce and Business Association spokesperson Victoria Han said about 200 Chinese would gather at Memorial Hall at the Queen Elizabeth Youth Centre on Saturday to meet and greet, play games, and have a shared dinner with Auckland-based National list MP Dr Jian Yang joining the event.

All Chinese from Tauranga and the Western Bay of Plenty were welcome to come to the event, she said.


Mrs Han explained that Chinese New Year was like Christmas but for Chinese communities.

"It's the biggest celebration in China. No matter where they [Chinese people] are in the world, they will be celebrating it with their families.

"It's a time for family reunion - people visit their friends and family no matter where they are. It is the biggest festival in China."

In China there were about 10 days of holidays and celebrations which took place for the event, she said.

Mrs Han, who has lived in New Zealand about 16 years, said at home in China, instead of giving presents at the celebration, red envelopes filled with money were given, especially to younger generations.

While the holiday was centered on catching up with loved ones, eating delicious food was also a big part of the celebrations.

"Dumplings are definitely one of the things you have to have for Chinese New Year. They are normally cooked on Chinese New Year eve, with the family around the table and everybody doing their part to make them. You then boil them at midnight, eat them together and farewell the old year and greet the new year."

Chinese Cultural Society president Candy Yan said the festival was a way for local Chinese communities to come together, reignite old friendships and form new ones.

"New families are coming every week. They come through word of mouth. I often tell people I don't like Auckland and Tauranga is the best place in New Zealand."

Next year they would open the event to the wider Tauranga and Western Bay of Plenty community, she said.

Chinese New Year:

* Chinese New Year marks the first day of the new year in the Chinese calendar, which differs from the Gregorian calendar. It is also known as the Spring Festival or the Lunar New Year. Every year is represented by a zodiac animal sign. This year is the year of the monkey.