Chinese New Year is often referred to as the Lunar Festival, marked by the first new moon of the lunar year, or the Spring Festival, in anticipation of the change in seasons. The new year marks a fresh start for the Chinese, Korean and Taiwanese, a time to clean out the old by wearing new clothes, having our hair cut, pay off debts and sweeping out our houses to make way for the coming year’s fortune.
As Chinese families are preparing for celebrations for Chinese New Year, this year landing on 16th February, I recall many happy childhood memories of going to Chinatown in Vancouver with my family. We would find an open spot along the busy Pender Street corridor to watch the parade, wrapped up in down jackets my mom sewed for us. The firecrackers were lit to ward off evil spirits and bad luck, and to create a festive atmosphere. The lion dance would visit each shopkeeper to accept their offerings of lettuce and money in exchange for blessings of prosperity and success in the upcoming year.
Rituals and a Feast
Our home was often bustling with activity during the two weeks leading up to New Year’s. We cleaned and swept our house?to be rid of last year’s “bad luck” and to make way for the upcoming year’s “good luck.” My mom would cook a huge feast which included so many favourites. Chow mein with long noodles to represent longevity, dumplings shaped like traditional gold ingots to represent wealth, steamed fish in soy sauce and ginger for prosperity, and sweet rice balls in soup for family. For any friends we visited during this time, we would bring tangerines to their home to wish them good fortune.
New Year’s Eve was the time for our family to gather together with cousins, aunts, and uncles. When my maternal grandparents immigrated to Canada, the celebrations became much bigger. My PoPo (grandmother) would spend days in the kitchen preparing for the feast. She would chide us for washing our hair on New Year’s as she believed we were washing away the New Year’s fortune. She would ensure that we wear our new red outfits to ward off evil spirits and bring luck. She was generous with red envelopes and we and our cousins would beam with the amount of “lucky money” we would receive from all the adults.
This year, the year of the dog, my family will gather for a family reunion and celebrate with close friends and new family members, while cherishing the memories of those no longer with us. For us, this is the time of year to honour our culture and traditions while spending time with family.
The Cowichan Intercultural Society (CIS) is spearheading the movement to welcome and support refugees and immigrants to the community. CIS is the leading immigrant and refugee aid organization in the region. We facilitate mutual respect, trust, support and education in the culturally diverse Cowichan Valley. Our vision is an inclusive and welcoming community, where every person feels valued and has a sense of belonging. We offer intercultural fluency training, intergenerational leadership programs, and community outreach. Learn more at www.cis-iwc.org.
Submitted by Jennifer Yee Fairweather, Cowichan Intercultural Society http://cis-iwc.org/