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Clean slate and welcoming prosperity

After 4,710 years, Chinese New Year has snowballed into one doozy of a party.

After 4,710 years, Chinese New Year has snowballed into one doozy of a party. The celebration has also become part of what it means to be Canadian, and communities across the country will honour and enjoy its rich traditions Monday (Jan. 23).

Chinese New Year is first and foremost a celebration of renewal, explained Kathy Gibler, executive director of the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Vancouver.

In that spirit, its traditions revolve around repaying debts and repelling bad spirits to start off the new year with a clean slate, and welcome prosperity.

Each day has special traditions, such as sending off the kitchen god, decorating the house with flowers and fruits, or remembering departed relatives, explained Gibler.

Because China covers such a large area, traditional food varies widely, but in most households you can’t go wrong with fish, which symbolizes abundance, Gibler said. Potstickers and the myriad traditional pastries are also popular choices.

Many people decorate their homes and businesses with red good luck couplets — paper characters with meanings like good luck, long life and prosperity.

“It’s a really social time of year,” explained Gibler, who lived in China for six years. Many people make house visits to wish friends and family a happy new year, and red envelopes containing money are a common gift, especially for children.

When the clock strikes midnight on Chinese New Year’s Eve, the family runs outside to set off firecrackers and chase away bad luck that might be lingering from the year before.

“Chinese New Year is like Christmas for Canadians, eh?” explained Jun Ing, the parade marshal for Vancouver’s Chinese New Year parade.

In honour of the year of the water dragon, his parade will have three long dragons, each held up by many dancers.

The symbol of water in this year’s water dragon zodiac tempers the powerful, fiery nature of the dragon to make the water dragon less hotheaded and more peaceful, while still remaining strong, explained Gibler.

The lion dance will also make an appearance with its upbeat gong and drum accompaniment, said Ing. He is overseeing more than 14 lion dance teams in the parade this year.

Since its inception 39 years ago, the Vancouver Chinese New Year parade has grown incredibly and taken on a multicultural flavour. Now, many different groups participate, including Special Olympians and Korean martial artists and dancers, Ing explained.

“It’s the Canadian way of doing it.”

Find your sign


Born in 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012

Dragons prefer to live by their own rules and, if left on their own, are usually successful. They are driven, unafraid of challenges, and willing to take risks.


Born in 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013

The Snake symbolizes such character traits as intelligence, gracefulness and materialism.


Born in 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014

The Horse symbolizes character traits as strength, energy, and an outgoing nature.


Born in 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015

The Sheep symbolizes such character traits as creativity, intelligence, dependability, and calmness.


Born in 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016

The Monkey possesses character traits as curiosity, mischievousness, and cleverness.


Born in 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017

The Rooster symbolizes such character traits as confidence, pompousness and motivation.


Born in 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018

The Dog symbolizes character traits such as loyalty, compatibility and kindness.


Born in 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019

The Pig symbolizes such character traits as diligence, compassion, and generosity.


Born in 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020

The Rat symbolizes such character traits as wit, imagination and curiosity.


Born in 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021

Oxen possess such character traits as dependability, strength and determination.


Born in 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022

The Tiger symbolizes such character traits as bravery, competitiveness and unpredictability.


Born in 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023

The Rabbit symbolizes such character traits as creativity, compassion, and sensitivity.


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