Leicester's Chinese community enjoys a fire-cracking start to Year of the Snake
A fearsome dancing lion and ear-shattering firecrackers livened up a grey afternoon yesterday as Leicester's Chinese community celebrated their new year.
The colourful lion had its eyes painted on by city mayor Sir Peter Soulsby and then strutted across a stage to the sound of drums and cymbals – before leaping into the crowd and doing an energetic dance.
The lion dance was followed by a massive firecracker, lit by police commissioner Sir Clive Loader, to mark the beginning of the Year of the Snake.
Shuzhen Ingrams, 45, of Braunstone Frith, who was in the crowd, said: "It was a brilliant firecracker and very loud. I just wish it could have been even longer. I loved the lion dance, too.
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"It's a great traditional event. If only the weather was a bit better."
Joey Cheung, 36, who moved to Aylestone, Leicester, from Hong Kong in 2003, said it was just about possible to imagine he was back home when watching the celebration.
"It's a wonderful day and I wanted to bring my daughter and two boys along to celebrate," he said. "They really loved the lion dance.
"In Hong Kong it's a huge event and all the shops are open throughout the night before and the streets are full of performances and celebrations.
"This does remind me of it a bit."
The celebration took place in Humberstone Gate, in the city centre, and featured activities including Chinese paper crafts and calligraphy.
Sir Clive and his wife, Alison, had their new grandson's name inscribed in Chinese writing on paper.
Sir Clive said: "We had our very first grandson, James, born on Saturday, so we've had his name written and its going in a time capsule for his 21st birthday with lots of other things.
"It's great to come here and to be part of life in Leicester and celebrate with everyone."
Sarah Edge, 34, of Birstall, took along her daughters Sophie, five, and Gracie, who is 18 months old.
Sarah said: "It's really great – and it was a really scary lion. The firecracker was amazing, too. I didn't realise what it was at first.
"I read about the celebrations in the Mercury and I wanted to come along."
Antony Yau, 42, of Leicester Forest East, was there with his four-year-old son, Kyle.
Antony said: "I come every year because it's always a great event with the lion dance and the kung fu. Every year is a bit different."
Jinyu Shan, 38, of Oadby, said: "It's nice to hear Chinese music and see all the people. There are a lot here now, especially with all the students, and it's good to celebrate together."
Sir Peter said: "This is one of the highlights of the year and it's a great honour to paint the dots on the lion's eyes again. I love the lion and the fireworks."