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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 February 2008, 16:10 GMT
Cities celebrate Year of the Rat
Manchester Chinatown
Crowds of people lined the streets to watch the celebrations
Crowds of revellers in the North West of England have flocked to Manchester and Liverpool to enjoy the Chinese New Year festivities.

Dragon parades and firework displays took place in Manchester and Liverpool throughout the day to mark the start of the Year of the Rat.

The cities' two Chinatowns were decked out in oriental decorations for the occasion and packed with market stalls.

The Year of the Rat is said to be a good year for business and commerce.

Golden dragon

In Manchester a 175ft (53m) long golden dragon performed in Albert Square in front of the Town Hall before leaving for a colourful procession through the city to Chinatown.

Dragon parade at Manchester's Chinatown
Chinatown was decked out in lanterns, flags and banners

Last year's event in Manchester attracted more than 50,000 visitors, making it the biggest Chinese festival in the North.

In Liverpool, which is home to Europe's oldest Chinese community, the festivities began in Chinatown with a colourful street parade featuring dragons, lions and unicorns followed by a firecracker display.

The festivities kick-started a wider Chinese theme for Liverpool's capital of culture year with the arrival of the National Ballet of China and Beijing Modern Dance Company next month.

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