Whanganui marked Chinese new year on Friday night with its first ever lantern festival.

The event was organised by Jan McLeod, of the NZ-China Friendship Society, with some help from tertiary education provider UCOL, and it drew a big crowd.

Tai chi swords, costumes, dance, tasty Chinese treats - such as sweet dumplings - and, of course, plenty of lanterns were on show by the Whanganui River as people thronged to Moutoa Quay by the i-Site office.

Ms McLeod said it was a chance for the River City got to absorb a litle bit of Chinese culture, and she hopes to expand the event next year with a Chinese dragon boat paddling on the river.

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Friday night's lantern celebration traditionally marks the last day of Chinese New Year, which this year began on Friday, February 16.

Ms McLeod said with the increased publicity of Chinese new year (2018 is the year of the dog) and the growing numbers of Chinese people coming to Whanganui, it was an opportunity to learn more about the culture.

Three larges boxes of lanterns had been delivered to Whanganui from Ms McLeod's friend in China. "We were overwhelmed by how many lanterns we have," she said.

"I think there is a lot of potential for this event to become something big in Whanganui."