‘Year of the dragon’: Canada’s oldest Chinatown celebrates Lunar New Year

CHEK

Victoria’s Fan Tan Alley was crowded Saturday afternoon as Canada’s oldest Chinatown kicked off celebrations for Lunar New Year.

Lunar New Year begins with the first new moon of the lunar calendar and ends 15 days later on the first full moon. The dates of the holiday vary slightly each year, falling between late January and mid-February as it is based on the cycles of the moon.

The Chinese Canadian Museum’s Victoria location celebrated with museum tours, handing out traditional red envelopes with chocolate coins to children, as well as samples of dragons beard candy and educating the public on 2024’s Chinese zodiac, the dragon.

“A dragon year is supposed to be a pretty good year. It’s a good year to try new things, it’s a good year to take trips,” said Charlayne Thornton-Joe, with the Chinese Canadian Museum Fan Tan Alley Exhibit.

Each new year is named after one of the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac in a repeating cycle, starting with the rat and running through the ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

The zodiac is crucial to understanding people and their health, wealth and love.

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“Dragon symbolizes leadership and compassion and it’s the most important mythological being,” Thornton-Joe explained. “Actually, if you are thinking of having a child this year, everyone wants to have a dragon child, so get to work.”

She said Saturday is the start of two weeks of celebrations, with the first day traditionally centered around family, friends and feasting.

“Everybody will be going out for dim sum, going out for dinner, for banquet, eating their favourite dishes that bring good luck for the new year,” said Thornton-Joe.

During the lunch rush, restaurants across Chinatown were full.

Wah Lai Yuen Bakery and Restaurant had a lineup out the door with no indication of slowing down.

Workers were too busy for an interview with CHEK News but said Lunar New Year is traditionally one of the restaurant’s busiest days, with many families pre-ordering dinners.

They added BBQ pork and a variety of bun flavours were their most popular items.

Celebrations are expected to continue, with the much anticipated lion dance parade scheduled for Feb. 18 at 11:30 a.m. in Chinatown.

With files from Canadian Press and Associated Press. 

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