Arts & Culture

Chinese New Year traditions strong in Richmond

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 11:50 PST, Thu January 23, 2020

Last Updated: 2:09 PST, Mon February 10, 2020

Chinese New Year is known by many names, including Lunar New Year and the spring festival. 

The celebration likely originated in the Shang Dynasty between 1600 and 1046 BC. The date became fixed to the lunar calendar—making the festival’s timing more consistent in the Han Dynasty between 202 BC and 220 AD.

Festivities last for 15 days, beginning with the first new moon and ending with the first full moon of the lunar year.

According to tradition, a mythical beast called Nian (meaning “Year”) emerged from the sea each year to eat people. An old man learned that Nian was afraid of loud noises and the colour red, so he decorated with red paper and set off firecrackers to drive the beast back into the sea.

To symbolize this, celebrations include fireworks and dances featuring loud noises. Red envelopes are given to children on New Year’s Day—Jan. 25 this year—filled with money to keep them healthy. Bills are often newly printed, as new things symbolize good luck.  

Richmond hosts many celebrations, including several at Aberdeen Centre, in the coming week.

Joey Kwan, Aberdeen’s director of promotion and public relations, says the events bring people together and that “Aberdeen is a hub for Chinese people.”

The traditional, and popular, Lion Dance adds cultural significance.

“We must have the dragon and lion dances every year,” she says. After the dances, “all the dragons will move inside, from store to store, to pick the green.” 

Picking or plucking the green happens at the end of the Lion Dance ceremony, where the lion “eats” lettuce or other green vegetables attached to a red envelope. Both are hung in the doorway of a home or business. The lion keeps the envelope but spits out the leaves as a blessing.

A Chinese flower and gift fair along with other “festive products,” cultural performances, and a big countdown event the night before New Year’s Day are planned at Aberdeen. 

“On the countdown night (Jan. 24) we have entertainment including a live show from Fairchild Radio and Fairchild TV,” says Kwan.

(Fairchild TV is a Cantonese channel, and Fairchild Radio provides service in Cantonese and Mandarin. Both Fairchild Radio and Fairchild TV have studios inside Aberdeen Centre). 

Aberdeen Centre will be decorated for Chinese New Year. Events take place there from Jan. 18 to Jan. 26. For more, visit aberdeencentre.com.

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