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Eight auspicious ways to celebrate Chinese New Year
Red and gold streamers, tasseled lanterns and paper-cut snake motifs are appearing in shop windows across Richmond.
This year, the Lunar New Year falls on Sunday, Feb. 10, and Richmond is again playing host to one of the most extensive two-week Chinese New Year celebrations.
Thousands will flock to Chinese restaurants and malls to welcome the Year of the Snake with fireworks, well-wishing rituals, live music, a new year countdown, Chinese flower and gift fairs, colourful lion and dragon dances and, of course, authentic food.
Tourism Richmond compiled a list of the top eight ways to celebrate the season.
•Eat your way to prosperity: Food is central to Chinese New Year celebrations. It’s believed that eating auspicious foods like whole fish and lettuce wraps will bring fortune and good luck. There are more than 400 Asian eateries in Richmond to satiate cravings for traditional fare: from rich Peking duck, symbolizing togetherness and fidelity, to sweet sticky rice, representing a family’s commitment to stick together throughout the year. For many families, the elaborate Chinese New Year’s Eve feast is the most important meal of the year as it’s an occasion for reunions and giving thanks. Award-winning Richmond restaurants like Fisherman’s Terrace, Shanghai River, Jade Seafood and Suhang offer special set menus for groups to enjoy sumptuous 10- to 12-course meals.
•Shop for lucky plum blossoms: It’s customary that during Chinese New Year every household should display blooming plants to symbolize rebirth and new growth. 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. Its Chinese New Year Flower and Gift Fair runs from Feb. 6 to 11.
•Awaken your inner Buddha: To increase blessings and happiness in the coming year, one should immerse themselves in the sights and sounds of Richmond’s exhilarating International Buddhist Temple during one of the Temple’s most exciting times of the year. In addition to special prayer ceremonies on New Year’s Eve, the Temple will feature special Chinese New Year festivities from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Feb. 6 to 10, including traditional vegetarian snacks in the Taste of Zen café, a Flower and Gift Fair, Chinese calligraphy and more.
•Meet Gods and dragons: They’re called “hong bao” in Mandarin or “lei see” in Cantonese—these red envelopes are stuffed with money and handed out as wishes of good fortune in the coming year. The God of Fortune will be handing out red envelopes throughout Richmond, including during the New Year’s Day celebrations on Feb. 10 at Yaohan Centre at 10 a.m., Aberdeen Centre at 11 a.m. and Richmond Centre mall at noon. But the real attraction on these days is the majestic dragon or lion dances.
•Devour dumplings: Dumplings are another food rich in symbolism; shaped like ancient Chinese money representing wealth and prosperity, dumplings are one of the most important foods during the New Year festivities. One of the best ways to try a tasty variety of dumplings is at a traditional dim sum meal. Local eateries boast delectable bites like “har gao” (shrimp dumplings) and “char siu bao” (steamed pork buns) along with a myriad of other dishes served on small plates or out of steaming baskets. Book a table at acclaimed Sea Harbour Seafood or Sun Sui Wah and indulge.
•Decorate with red and gold: Red and gold are the dominant colors of Chinese New Year decorations, with gold signaling prosperity and red indicating life also while scaring away evil spirits. Look out for festive banners, bright-red lanterns, and red paper-cut snake motifs (paper cutting is an ancient Chinese folk art) for sale throughout Hong Kong-style malls. It is tradition to decorate doors and windows with red paper cuts indicating themes such as happiness, wealth and longevity.
•Stay up late: The Chinese word “shou sui” means to stay awake throughout the night after the reunion dinner to welcome the new year. According to Chinese beliefs, children who “shou sui” will increase the longevity of the parents. Fortunately, in Richmond there are a myriad of late night hot spots and a great place to start is Alexandra Road. Next, rush over to nearby Aberdeen Centre for the official countdown or the International Buddhist Temple (both open until after midnight on Feb. 9) to join in New Year’s Eve prayer celebrations.
•Seek sweet treats: A New Year’s celebration wouldn’t be complete without sweet treats, which represent a rich life. A hugely popular sweet treat in Richmond is sticky rice cake. This Chinese New Year delight symbolizes abundance and reunion. Other sugary favourites among locals include pineapple buns and cocktail buns (filled with coconut). Both are freshly baked throughout the day at bakeries all over the city, including Lido Restaurant and the Kam Do and Pine House bakeries.