Celebrating Chinese New Year in Richmond

Already abandoned or forgotten those New Years resolutions? Don’t despair. Chinese New Year, celebrated this year on Friday, January 31, is just around the corner. It’s a second chance to say good riddance to nagging bad habits and usher in good ones. Also called the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, Chinese New Year is the largest celebration of the year for many cultures throughout Asia. For travellers preferring a North American destination to ring in the Chinese Year of the Horse, Richmond, British Columbia, hosts one of the continent’s most elaborate and authentic Chinese New Year celebrations. From January 24 through February 8, the city (home to Canada’s largest per capita percentage of Chinese descendants) wows with traditional lion and dragon dances, music performances, indulgent 10-12 course feasts, colourful art displays and popular flower markets and gift fairs. Setting the stage upon arrival, even Vancouver International Airport in Richmond offers full Chinese New Year celebrations for visitors on January 31 between 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.

Here’s how to uphold your New Years resolutions while partaking in Richmond’s lively celebrations:

If you resolved to eat less “fast food”…
Food is central to Chinese New Year celebrations, and there’s nothing fast about the sumptuous 10 to 12-course New Year’s Eve feast also known as the reunion dinner. For many families and friends, the reunion dinner (celebrated, this year, on January 30) is the most important meal of the year as it’s an occasion for bonding, giving thanks, eating purposefully – and symbolically. Noodles are eaten for long life; dumplings, shaped like ancient Chinese money, represent wealth and prosperity; lettuce wraps play on the Chinese word for “fortune” which is also the word for “lettuce”; the head and tail of a fish served whole symbolize a good beginning and end to the year. Richmond has earned the reputation as the North American destination for Chinese cuisine and restaurants like Fisherman’s Terrace, The Jade Seafood RestaurantSea Harbour SeafoodVivacity and Suhang offer special reunion dinner set menus for groups, and reserving a table ahead is essential. The slow deliberateness of afternoon tea can help to keep resolutions to avoid fast food. From January 31 through February 13, the Fairmont Vancouver Airport offers an Asian-inspired afternoon tea from 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily. Enjoy tea, relaxation and pampering; $42 for adults and $20 for children.

If you resolved to travel more…
During a visit to Richmond, visitors experience Asia without the jetlag. The influence of Richmond’s 45 per cent Chinese population is most apparent in the Golden Village – an effortlessly Asian, thoroughly modern representation of China. Step into Richmond’s Golden Village in the city centre, with its glitzy Asian malls, shops and services, and 400 authentic Asian eateries, and it’s like arriving in Hong Kong or Beijing. Thousands will flock to the Golden Village to welcome the Year of the Horse with firecrackers, live music, costumed dances, delicious foods and flower and gift fairs. Visiting a traditional flower market is a must in the week leading up to New Year’s Day. One of Richmond’s most popular shopping destinations is Aberdeen Centre, famously the most Asian mall outside of Asia. Its Chinese New Year Flower & Gift Fair runs from January 24 to 31. Nearby Yaohan Centre also boasts an impressive Flower Market from January 15 to 30. Merchandise stalls feature gifts of good omen such as sweet oranges, tangerines, colourful flowers, exotic plants, jade artwork and a variety of red and gold decorations.

If you resolved to be more patient…
Awaken the inner Buddha and learn the true meaning of patience at Richmond’s famed International Buddhist Temple. Modeled after the Forbidden City in Beijing, it is the second largest Buddhist temple in North America and each year draws a quarter of a million visitors. Year round, the Temple welcomes worshipers and visitors of all faiths and beliefs to join in prayer and meditation sessions. Chinese New Year is one of the Temple’s most exciting times of the year; thousands of visitors flock here to light bundles of incense, pay their respects and make offerings. The Temple also features special Chinese New Year festivities from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on January 25 to 31, including a Chinese New Year bazaar where visitors can browse elaborate flower arrangements, enjoy traditional snacks and foods, and pick up good-luck gift items. The highly popular Chinese New Year’s Eve celebrations run 10:00 a.m. to midnight on January 30.

If you resolved to learn something new…
Thinking of learning a new skill this year – painting perhaps? Get tips from the crew of Chinese Canadian art students who will be painting an extraordinary 3D wall painting in celebration of the Year of the Horse. See the artists in action at Parker Place, one of Richmond’s three Asian malls, from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on January 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, and 19. From Parker Place, it’s a quick hop to Richmond’s famed Alexandra Road for a crash course in Asian cuisine. Locally dubbed ‘Wai Sek Kai’ or ‘Food Street’, Alexandra Road boasts 200 Asian eateries in three short city blocks. Here there is everything from rich Malaysian laksa soup to spiced Korean barbeque or fiery Beijing hot-pot, as well as late night cafés and karaoke bars.

If you resolved to spend less, save more…
Bring on some good luck and be sure to spot the God of Fortune handing out red envelopes throughout Richmond this January, including during the Golden Dragon & Lion Dance performances on Friday, January 31 at Aberdeen Centre at 11:00 a.m. and at Yaohan Centre at 1:30 p.m. as well as on Saturday, February 1 at Parker Place at 3:00 p.m. Inside these red envelopes – which are traditionally handed-out during Chinese New Year to younger generations by their relatives and close friends – is a gift of money symbolizing good fortune in the coming year.

For the full Chinese New Year calendar of events, plus a video of Richmond’s annual festivities, click here.

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

(courtesy of Tourism Richmond)

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