Ready to ring in the Year of the Ram in Vancouver?
Chinese New Year falls on Thursday, Feb. 19, and – as usual – Vancouver is pulling out all the stops. To mark the Year of the Ram in the Chinese zodiac (also referred to as the Year of the Sheep or Goat), the city is celebrating with festivals, banquets and of course the big Chinese New Year Parade on Sunday, Feb. 22.
Most activities centre around Vancouver’s Chinatown, one of the largest Chinatowns in North America and a vibrant hub of Chinese culture, with streets lined with traditional fish markets and butcher shops, stores selling herbal remedies, restaurants, gardens and more.
A must-see gem in Chinatown is the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, declared by National Geographic to be the world’s finest small urban garden. For a small admission price ($12 adults), you can wander the tree-lined paths, mediate in 15th-century-style buildings and make your way around the decorative pond. (Alternately, the neighbouring Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park is free to enjoy.) And on Sunday, Feb. 22, the garden will be hosting special festivities to mark the Year of the Ram.
You can also get into the spirit with a a visit to the Chinese New Year Heritage Village inside Chinatown’s International Village Mall, Feb. 19-Feb. 22. Each year, the mall creates an elaborate display to evoke traditional scenes from China. Enjoy lion dances, live performances by musicians and exhibits that bring the art, culture and cuisine of China to life.
Chinatown is also a great place to savour traditional Chinese cuisine, and special banquets and dishes are commonplace during the Chinese New Year period. One local institution not to be missed is the Floata Seafood Restaurant. On Sunday, Feb. 22, they host their annual Chinese New Year banquet, a lavish traditional spread popular both among local families and tourists. (For an even more comprehensive introduction to Chinese cuisine, head to Alexandra Road in the Metro Vancouver city of Richmond, home to hundreds of restaurants in the space of a few blocks).
For a glimpse of contemporary Asian culture, don’t miss a new Vancouver tradition, LunarFest, Feb. 20-Feb. 22. Held in the plaza in front of downtown’s Vancouver Art Gallery, the festival shows off the modern side of Asian arts, culture and cuisine, with special exhibits, live performances and – in past years – a feast of Chinese dumplings.
Finally, the highlight of Chinese New Year celebrations in Vancouver is the big Chinese New Year Parade, Sunday, Feb. 22. The parade attracts more than 50,000 spectators and features 3,000 performers, including the largest number of lion dance teams in Canada. It kicks off at 11 a.m. sharp at Chinatown’s Millennium Gate.
Follow me on Twitter @RemyScalza