Today is a new beginning for roughly 80,000 people in Edmonton’s Chinese and Vietnamese community as they continue to celebrate the Chinese New Year, a celebration that usually extends over two weeks.

West Edmonton Mall’s Ice Palace was one of the many places in the city over the weekend where thousands watched dan­cers and performers on stage as they rang in the Year of the Ox on the eve of the Chinese New Year yesterday.

“We will continue celebrating for a while,” said Irene Ma, a performance leader for the 2009 Lunar New Year Extravaganza.

“The Chinese New Year is a long celebration.”

Thousands crammed into the Ice Palace, sometimes shoulder-to-shoulder as they walked by vendors during the fair.

Many others sat in awe as they watched the live performances, including a lion dance by the Hung Man Athletic Club — a performance meant to ward off evil spirits in a new year.

Ma says celebrations last for a week leading up to Chinese New Year’s Day to celebrate the end of the year, while new celebrations kick off to celebrate a new year.

Under Chinese customs, people would also pay off their debts before the new year.

“Everyone wants to start the new year on a clean slate, and kids will be extra happy because they get to wear new clothes, along with getting new pocket money from their parents and elders,” said Ma.

With 2009 being the Year of the Ox, the Edmonton Chinatown Multicultural Centre says it could be a better year as it encourages people to work harder to bring in better prosperities.

With markets and the economy taking a plunge, the new year could be welcome news for investors and politicians, said Ma “This means we will have a better year than what we saw last year,” said Ma.