The mythical Chinese dragon came alive in Auckland at the weekend, as more than 100,000 people turned up to the annual Lantern Festival to celebrate the Year of the Dragon.

The three-day event, held at Albert Park in the central city, marked the close of the 15-day Chinese New Year celebrations, which officially started on January 23.

Crowds were entertained to dragon dancing by the Sanlin Dragon and Lion Dance troupe from Shanghai, one of several acts brought in for the festival by its organisers, the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

Dragon and lion dancing are supposed to bring good luck, and the use of gongs, drums and cymbals are meant to dispel evil spirits and bad luck.


Other acts included the Taizhou Luantan Opera and the Long Shen Dao Reggae band from Beijing.

The Lantern Festival has been part of Chinese New Year celebrations in China since the Han Dynasty in 206BC, and was introduced as part of the New Zealand festivities in 1999.

The festival culminated last night with a fireworks display.

"The Lantern Festival is also popularly referred to as the Chinese Valentine's Day because in days of old, it gave girls and boys a rare chance to go out in the evening and mingle," the foundation said.

"Today, the festivals are held each year in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan to mark the end of Chinese New Year celebrations."