Three new lions will be awakened during this year’s Chinese New Year celebrations, which include the traditional lion dance and parade this Sunday on Fisgard Street in Victoria. Victoria News files

Chinese New Year has its own unique traditions

Victoria’s Chinatown at the heart of New Year celebrations

As a celebration, Chinese New Year differs from traditional western holidays in ways that begin with the date upon which it is marked.

The western version of New Year, of course, takes place at midnight on Dec. 31 and pretty much allows Jan. 1 as a day for people to recover from the previous night’s celebrations, and to make heartfelt resolutions for the coming year.

Not so for Chinese New Year.

Since it’s based on the lunar calendar, the start date changes annually, leaving it to fall somewhere between Jan. 21 and Feb. 20.

Secondly, the celebration is not a single-day venture, but stretches out over about a two-week period. During that time Chinese families traditionally exchange “lucky money” in iconic red envelopes, bad fortune is swept away and fireworks and lion dances are the order of the day.

This year’s celebration, ringing in the Year of the Dog, begins this Friday (Feb. 16) and continues to the end of the month.

In Victoria, the oldest Chinatown in Canada will celebrate the occasion with a traditional lion dance where three new lions will be awakened with a special “eye-dotting” ceremony. The event is scheduled for noon on Sunday on Fisgard Street and is organized by the Victoria Chinese Community Association, a non-profit group that promotes Chinese culture and the strengthening of the community’s diversity and strength.

At the University of Victoria, the holiday was celebrated in advance on Feb. 4 in an gala extravaganza of music, dance, magic and drama at the University of Victoria’s Farquhar Auditorium.

During the week before the Chinatown lion dance, Chinese youth will gather at a local restaurant to share memories and experiences and make new friends in recognition of the new year.

For those interested in the history of Victoria’s Chinatown and Chinese heritage, Discover the Past is conducting special walking tours of Chinatown, and at the Hotel Grand Pacific, a special Chinese New Year afternoon tea will be on offer between noon and 3:30 p.m. daily between Feb. 16 and 25.

And, if you happen to have been born during previous years of the dog (2006, 1994, 1982, 1970, 1958) it seems that you are destined to be communicative, serious, and responsible in the workplace.

editor@vicnews.com

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