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Where to Spend Chinese New Year in Vancouver

Parades and Celebrations for the Lunar New Year

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Vancouver and its neighboring city Richmond, like many places throughout the world, celebrate Chinese New Year to mark the start of the lunar calendar. The event is colorful and lively, with parades, dancing, and dining.

Vancouver celebrations happen in both historic Chinatown and more modern areas of the city, like the large Asian malls in Richmond. You can wish someone a prosperous new year by saying "Gung Hay Fat Choy" in Cantonese, or "Gong Xi Fa Cai" in Mandarin.

Chinese New Year Dates:

Although the date changes each year, Chinese New Year usually falls in late January or early February. But the lion dancers, parades, red and gold decorations, and family gatherings are an annual tradition. Lunar new years fall on:

  • Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 -- the Year of the Horse
  • Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015 -- the Year of the Sheep
  • Monday, Feb. 8, 2016 -- the Year of the Monkey

 

1. Explore Historic Chinatown

photo by Chloë Ernst

Chinatown features colorful, historic architecture and lively shopping opportunities that make the area lovely year-round. But the neighborhood is especially alive during Chinese New Year celebrations.

To celebrate, Chinatown hosts a Chinese New Year parade. Expect to see competitive lion dance teams, martial artists, and live music. Theparade moves east from the Millennium Gate on W. Pender Street, travels three blocks to Gore Avenue, and doubles-back along Keefer Street.

In 2011 the Canadian government named Vancouver's Chinatown as a national historic site, noting the area's heritage architecture and strong culture.

2. Venture Out to Richmond

© Chloë Ernst

Although Vancouver's historic Chinatown is located near downtown and the city center, there's a more modern city with a heavy Asian influence to the south: Richmond. Nearly half the city claims Chinese ancestry, meaning the malls, markets, and restaurants are one of the busiest places to celebrate the New Year.

Shopping malls in Richmond host many New Year's events, ranging from cultural performances to flower shows. Richmond malls are also excellent places to pick up Chinese-style decorations, foods, and gifts. Some of the biggest and best to visit are:

  • Aberdeen Centre, at 4151 Hazelbridge Way, has a New Year's countdown, live music, lion dancers, and a flower show during the weeks surrounding the Lunar New Year.
  • Yaohan Centre, at 3700 No. 3 Rd., hosts a flower show and performances.
  • Richmond Centre, at 6551 No. 3 Rd., stages a grand event with the Richmond Chinese Community Society.

3. Visit the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden

© Chloë Ernst

A tranquil garden in the center of Vancouver's Chinatown, the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is a wonderful spot to appreciate Chinese heritage and classical horticultural techniques. Take a guided tour of the garden (included in the admission price) to get the full history and symbolism of the garden. If you like history and design, it's worth spending an hour here.

The garden hosts special events for Chinese New Year, including games, performances, crafts, and food.

If you have only limited time on your Vancouver travels, visit the adjacent Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park -- it's next door to the classical Chinese garden and offers free entrance. While the park is a quick taster, the pay-to-see garden offers much more to see -- including more delicate architecture and finer plantings.

4. Dine at a Chinese Restaurant

Many Chinese families dine in large family groups for New Year's Eve. Dishes -- which are often ordered for their symbolism -- include fish, lobster, squab, pheasant, and duck. There are countless Chinese restaurants in Vancouver and Richmond that offer special menus for the Lunar New Year.

One of the largest is Floata Seafood Restaurant (400 - 180 Keefer St.; 604-602-0368), which hosts a Chinese New Year Banquet. But at any eatery, be sure to call ahead for reservations on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

Some Chinese restaurants also participate in the foodie festival Dine Out Vancouver, held about the same time.

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