SYDNEY, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) -- The world-famous sails of the iconic Sydney Opera House turned red on Thursday, to celebrate the Lunar New Year and welcome the Year of the Rat.
Now the largest Spring Festival anywhere outside Asia, Aussies have fallen in love with the traditions of the Lunar New Year and it's expected that over 1.5 million people will attend more than 100 events over the 16-day period.
"Lunar New Year has become an integral part of our calendar in New South Wales (NSW) State and is widely celebrated by East Asian and South East Asian communities," NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
"It is a time for families and loved ones to come together and share in new hopes and aspirations."
Originally beginning 24-years ago, Sydney's first Lunar New Year festival was a rather modest affair.
Born out of one back-alley street in the inner city suburb of Haymarket, a small group of local expats, tourists and businesses in Chinatown wanted to find a way to wish one another good fortune and celebrate the Lunar New Year Down Under.
With a lot of help and hard work from community organizers, the yearly event has now become a showpiece for Australia's rich multicultural success.
But as well as being a huge social phenomenon, Sydney's Lunar celebrations also bring in around 42 million Australian dollars (29 million U.S. dollars) for the local economy.
"I'm thrilled to see such a diverse program come together. From our laneway party on opening night to community dance performances and the famous dragon boat races at Darling Harbor, there's truly something for everyone," festival curator, artist Valerie Khoo, said.
"This year's entertainment includes a troupe of 24 performers and musicians from the northwestern Chinese province of Shaanxi. We'll also see Seoul's number one b-boy group, MB Crew, who performed at the closing ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics."
Another highlight of the 2020 Sydney Lunar Festival will be the returning Lunar Lanterns exhibition, with 12 larger-than-life illuminated artworks representing all the animal signs of the zodiac.
"I know everyone's going to be blown away by the incredible metal rat artwork designed by the renowned Australian designer and artist, Claudia Chan Shaw," Khoo said.
Seeing the event as a way to further build ties with Australia's Asian neighbors, Berejiklian said, "Festivals such as Lunar New Year bring us all together and enable us to learn more about each other's rich traditions and cultures."
"Traditionally, the rat is seen as clever, peaceful and thrifty and being the first animal in the zodiac calendar, signifies new beginnings and fortunes."
"May you all enjoy a happy, healthy and prosperous Year of the Rat."