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Crowds of men and women, old and young, lined the streets in downtown Lisbon on Saturday, on a sunny early-spring day, in a parade for the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year. Paraders assembled outside the Anjos Church before marching down Almirante Reis Avenue, one of Lisbon’s main arteries. The procession then wound its way along Palma Street, now adorned with red lanterns, and into Martim Moniz Square, where a market and stage had been erected. The Spring Festival gala, the fifth time it was being held in the same square, has become a platform for cultural exchange between China and Portugal.

“The dragons!” exclaimed 4-year-old Ana, when asked about her favorite part of the parade. She was busy filming the procession with her grandmother’s camera.

“I bring Ana every year,” said Maria Jose, Ana’s grandmother. “It’s such a happy day, especially when the sun shines like today.”

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The dancers dressed in pink, from the Zhengzhou Song and Dance Company, also caught the eye of Sara, also 4 years old, who had just started learning ballet.

“I work in the area, so I know the Chinese shops and often go for lunch in Chinese restaurants. I wanted to come and see the parade to find out a bit more about the culture, and it’s been quite extraordinary,” her father Tiago Rocha said.

Festival atmosphere

In a happy coincidence, Portugal’s annual carnival falls in the same period as China’s Spring Festival this year. Many Portuguese locals have made the most of the overlap by sporting Chinese masks and headwear.

Sara Fereira and Henrique Va were both wearing traditional Chinese dress with their baby daughter Carlona in a panda outfit. “My father is Chinese, but I was born in Portugal,” Va said, “so today’s perfect for me, I can combine the Chinese New Year with (the) carnival.”

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