Chinese artists performing at the Chinese New Year clebration opening ceremony Galleria mall, Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi on Tuesday. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Dubai: More than 1,000 Chinese expatriates in Dubai will usher in the Chinese New Year this Friday in the first and largest grand parade in the Middle East, showcasing their culture and traditions at City Walk.

The Chinese New Year begins on Friday, as per the Chinese lunar calendar, and the celebrations typically run for over two weeks and end on March 3 with the Lantern Festival.

Also known as the Spring Festival, the Chinese New Year is the most important traditional holiday in China. It is also a time when many Chinese travel around the world, including the UAE, to mark the occasion.

In Dubai, a major cultural parade will be held on Friday to ring in the Year of the Dog. The celebration is an initiative of the Consulate-General of China with the support of Meraas and Dubai Police.

“This Year’s Spring Festival Parade promises to be record-breaking as it’s the largest, with the widest participation and the parade is first in the Middle East. Secondly, it will break history in terms of variety. There will be 30 parading groups composed of 1,000 Chinese people from Chinese enterprises, as well as the Dubai Police band,” Li Lingbing, Chinese Consul-General, said.

“They will display traditional Chinese costumes, traditional art, tai chi, acrobatics, and others that will present the distinctive features of the 56 ethnic groups of the 34 provinces in China. The city will see celebrations at various locations including Dubai Parks and Resorts, Al Seef, La Mer, Dubai Airport, Boxpark, The Outlet Village, Dubai Design District, The Beach and The Dubai Mall,” she added.

Home to more than 270,000 Chinese nationals, the UAE is expecting thousands of Chinese tourists to visit the country for the New Year celebrations. The Chinese enjoy a visa-free entry to the UAE and the same privilege was accorded to Emiratis wanting to visit China on January 16.

“The number of Chinese tourists who visited Dubai [in 2017] was nearly one million,” the consul-general said.

“In recent years, big business potentials were brought by the festival activities. A large number of Chinese travel abroad during the Spring Festival. Last year, 130 million Chinese travelled around the world, which is a 7 per cent increase from the year before,” she added.

Li said the China-Dubai relations have entered “a golden period of rapid progress”. Dubai is an important hub on the One Belt One Road initiative for trade, tourism and transportation. The bilateral non-oil trade reached $35.1 billion (Dh128.8 billion) in 2017.

“The solid foundation of bilateral relations between China and the UAE has paved the way for the rapid progress of our cultural cooperation and people-to-people exchanges,” Li said.

During her speech, Li thanked the Dubai government for “putting local Chinese and enterprises in priority.”

“The Dubai government departments have provided excellent services to the Chinese people and enterprises, encouraging them to stay and invest here. Many Chinese people told me that they regard Dubai as their second home.”

During the parade on Friday, some 10,000 gifts with Chinese characters will be distributed to guests.

To celebrate the Spring Festival, the Chinese people usually come together to perform the lion dance, race dragon boats, hold temple fairs, paste couplets, hang up lanterns, set off fireworks and eat jiaozi (Chinese dumplings) and glutinous rice balls.

The celebration has garnered attention worldwide. In 2017, more than 2,000 Chinese New Year celebrations were held in more than 500 cities in more than 140 countries, with a total audience of 280 million.

Chinese New Year celebrations

What: First Spring Festival Culture Parade

Where: City Walk

When: February 16, from 4pm to 6.30pm

What: Fashion Show: an exclusive fashion show in partnership with China Kids Moda

Where: City Walk

When: February 27-28

What: Red Parcels: Chinese visitors will be given custom-designed red parcels in Mandarin containing special dining, retail and entertainment offers

Where: Meraas destinations and Dubai Parks and Resorts

What: Roaming acts and entertainment schedule

Where: City Walk, The Beach, Boxpark, The Outlet Village, Al Seef, and La Mer

When: February 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, and 24; 4.30pm to 8.30pm