IT is the Chinese New Year today and to mark the event we are taking a look at pictures from The Mail archive showing celebrations through the years by youngsters at nurseries and playgroups.

The Spring Festival of events within the Chinese community takes place from Saturday, January 25, until February 8 and welcomes the start of The Year of The Rat.

In Chinese culture the rat is seen as a sign of wealth and surplus.

The Mail, on Saturday, February 5, in 2000, noted: "At Schneider Road Playgroup in Barrow the children have been busy for weeks preparing dragon masks and hats.

"The children, some of whom are as young as two, wore these yesterday as they held their own celebrations.

"They were treated to some traditional Chinese delicacies from Bath Street takeaway, while the Diamond restaurant, on Dalton Road, donated some chopsticks."

The chopsticks were set to work on seaweed, boiled rice and prawn crackers - with some success.

Playgroup supervisor Anna Currie said: "We were trying to teach the kids all about the Chinese New Year and we tried to keep it simple.

"We had to explain that they don't use knives and forks.

"We tried to get them to just squash the prawn crackers between the chopsticks but when it came to the rice and the seaweed it was no good."

The Mail, on Wednesday, January 24 in 2001, noted: "Children dressed up in style to celebrate the start of the Chinese New Year.

"The youngsters at the Old Vicarage Day Nursery, on Hartington Street, Barrow, played games and enjoyed Chinese snacks as part of the tradition.

"Many of the costumes featured a snake to mark the start of the Chinese Year of the Snake.

"Restaurants and the Chinese community in Barrow and the South Lakes were holding their own ceremonies and special banquets to welcome in the new year."

Youngsters at the Happy Tots Nursery in Barrow were also dressed in Chinese outfits for a day of activities.

They enjoyed Chinese soup and produced a display with the help of Furness Chinese restaurants.

Children at the Hilltop Pre-School, Barrow, tried a range of Chinese foods.

In 1999 staff at the Diamond Chinese Restaurant, on Dalton Road, Barrow, celebrated the arrival of the Chinese New in style with a banquet for customers.