Liverpool starts year of Ox

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As the Chinese New Year celebrations got underway at the end of January 2009, Liverpool in the UK looked ahead to the Shanghai Expo 2010, where it will be only one of two UK cities to be represented.

Monday, 26 January 2009 was the first day of the Chinese New Year, with the year of the rat making way for the year of the ox. The event was marked by celebrations all over the world, including those in Europe's oldest Chinese community based in the UK's Northern city of Liverpool. Firecrackers and dragons brought over 20, 000 people into Liverpool city centre with the revellers heralding the festivities as the biggest and best ever. Chih Kao Tseng, deputy chairman of the UK Chinese Freemason Association, told local press: "The crowds are pretty good again, and this is something we're very proud of here in Liverpool, as without the support and enthusiasm of the people, we would have no New Year festival. "While 2008 was a busy year for both China and Liverpool, which hosted the Olympic Games and European Capital of Culture respectively, the Year of the Ox is also seen as key for Liverpool's future progress. At the time of writing, Liverpool city leaders were finalising plans for a showcase in Liverpool's Chinese twin city at the Shanghai Expo 2010. The event will be a significant opportunity to attract investment, as Liverpool is one of only two UK cities represented at the world's largest business convention. Cllr Warren Bradley, leader of Liverpool City Council, said: "Over the past decade, the Chinese New Year celebrations have got better and better. The next 12–18 months will also see the city forge even closer bonds with China through the Expo, and I hope the year of the Ox can live up to its meaning as one of prosperity. "Shanghai Expo 2010 will take place between 1 May and 31 October 2010. The event expects to attract about 200 nations and international organisations to take part in the exhibition as well as 70m visitors from China and abroad. Traditional Chinese New Year celebrations involve family reunions and a shared meal. Popular food items include fish, sweets, oranges, and special dumplings, while lantern–lighting, fireworks and dragon dancing mark festivities. Celebrated in areas with large populations of ethnic Chinese, Chinese New Year is considered a major holiday for the Chinese and has had influence on the new year celebrations of its geographic neighbours, as well as cultures with whom the Chinese have had extensive interaction. These include Koreans, Mongolians, Nepalese, Bhutanese, Vietnamese, and formerly the Japanese before 1873. In Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and other countries or regions with significant Han Chinese populations, Chinese New Year is also celebrated, and has, to varying degrees, become part of the traditional culture of these countries.

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