LAST night's banquet for Whanganui's Chinese families and friends began with special dumplings "to make the new year happy and sweet", Eileen Ng said.

She's the chairwoman of the Whanganui branch of the New Zealand-China Association, and also on its national executive.

She and her husband Raymond were preparing for the banquet yesterday at their Beijing Licensed Chinese Restaurant.

Chinese New Year is celebrated by millions around the world. It causes the world's biggest migration every year, because everyone wants to be with their family on their New Year's Eve. It is traditional to clean your house before the New Year, and to put up decorations and go shopping.


Whanganui has "a small and transient" Chinese population, with just 20 to 25 families that are members of the association.

It puts on a New Year event for them each year, to give a sense of inclusion to those far from home. Admirers of Chinese food and culture were also welcome.

Mrs Ng expected a full house of 20 to 30 for the banquet last night. On the menu were dumplings and spring rolls to start, with the traditional main attraction of roast pork to follow. Other dishes include soy chicken, spicy beef, Chinese vegetables and seafood.

People would also be giving each other money, in red envelopes, for luck.

The branch's lion will be out of storage for the occasion, but only for photographs. The group does not have the trained dancers needed to prance it through the streets, or the teasers to tempt it forward with their red fans.

The New Year celebration lasts another two weeks, and for Chinese it includes fireworks and visits to relatives and friends.