It’s hard to avoid Chinese New Year celebrations during this period. They are ubiquitous in Toronto this month. While most of the Chinese events are free and fun, you might want to try experiencing another country in our city. Instead of yet another dragon dance, you might want to try to dance yourself – something English – a la Jane Austen, or an Irish Ceili. How about dancing to live Mandingo griot music?
Less vigorous would be watching an Armenian-born artist paint a masterpiece, or make and eat dumplings – oops, I can’t seem to avoid Chinese culture – I love dumplings — or you could climb up the ramp at City Hall for a flag raising – where else can you meet some Grenadians?
In early February, you also have a chance to learn some Black History, or Iranian arts. You can try to find a solution to violence against women along with people of different faiths. Or learn about the difference between Chinese and Vietnamese new year by going to both Chinese and Vietnamese events.
We have happenings in our city that include the major religions and a rare visit by a Tatarstan music star. And can you identify the flags below? They will be flying this month at Toronto City Hall.
Africa. Les Frères Cissoko Bannaya Family. February 2. 9pm. $20. Alliance Française, 24 Spadina Road. 416-922-2014.
“Legend has it that the first kora of the Mandingo Empire was created by the ancestor of the Cissoko brothers. They are the descendants of one of the great families of West African griots and pay tribute to the tradition by giving it a good dose of creativity. Multi-instrumentalist masters of kora and percussion, they play with their instruments and their voices with dexterity and a disarming panache.” https://www.bemusednetwork.com/events/detail/546
Black History. Book Launch. They Call Me George: The Untold History of Black Train Porters and the Making of Modern Canada by Cecil Foster. Thursday, February 7. 7pm. Free. A Different Booklist, 779 Bathurst Street. https://www.adifferentbooklist.com/?q=h.calevents
China. Chinese New Year and/or Lunar New Year Celebrations. The Year of the Pig. In China, the festival is known as the Spring Festival.
About 700,000 people of Chinese ancestry live in the GTA, a large percentage in Markham, North York, Scarborough and Richmond Hill. Major Chinatowns are also in the Dundas-Spadina, Mississauga, and Broadview-Gerrard areas – places also with many Vietnamese and other Asian businesses.
Celebratory events usually include lion and/or dragon dances, adorable singing children, and the appearance of the God of Fortune distributing chocolate coins (which might be stamped on one side U.S. and on the other side Canadian). Local politicians and sometimes police officials also show up and make speeches. The celebrations start with dotting the eyes of the lions to bring them to life.
Stores in Chinese communities are open. They sell special foods, posters of the Kitchen God, good luck calligraphy, lucky money envelopes and miniature orange trees, symbols of good fortune. Many malls have wish trees. Customs include family reunions, and paying off of debts. Children get lai see or real lucky money.
Toronto’s many Chinatown malls and stores are now blazing with bright red stalls. Most events are free.
Celebrations start even before February 5, New Year’s Day. Events take place until the Lantern Festival on February 19. Most Chinese malls and neighbourhoods also have lion dancers going door to door, or from table to table in restaurants, collecting money (usually for the dancers and their martial arts organizations). Just listen for the sound of drumming.
Lucky you if you can be in Hong Kong for this event with its parade and amazing fireworks, probably the most extravagant Chinese new year event in the world. Wednesday, February 6. http://www.discoverhongkong.com/ca/see-do/events-festivals/highlight-events/chinese-new-year-celebrations.jsp). We do not recommend travel to China during this period when millions of people who can do so, travel to visit families.
By location, here are some of the Chinese New Year events in Toronto.
East Chinatown. Door to door Lion Dances. Gerrard and Broadview. Sunday, February 10. 12pm. Free. Lions will start at the archway and work their way south on Broadview and then back to Gerrard. From there they go east on Gerrard for a couple blocks and then back to Broadview.
“It’s easy to hear us… We will have with us the MP Julie Dabrusin, MPP Peter Tabuns, Councillor Paula Fletcher and Trustee Jennifer Story who bring greetings to the merchants and family. They in turn will hand out ‘lei see’ or lucky money in red envelopes and ‘choi’ (lettuce and money) for the lions. …usually takes about 2-3 hours.” Information from Valerie Mah, 416-533-0445.
Hillcrest Mall: An intimate, pig-themed book reading by Chinese-Canadian author Echo Liu. February 9-10. 2-4pm. Centre Court, Hillcrest Mall, 9350 Yonge Street. http://hillcrestmall.ca/events/lunar-new-year-celebrations/#.Kensington Market’s 4th Annual Lunar New Year Celebration. February 3. 2-5pm. “Pot Luck.” Last Temptation, Kensington Avenue: https://toronto.carpe-diem.events/calendar/9400829-kensington-markets-4th-annual-lunar-new-year-celebration-at-last-temptation
Markham: For Chinese New Year events in Markham including midnight countdowns and some free shows, see: https://www.guidingstar.ca/Chinese_New_Year_Celebrations.htm. This lists at least 10 events – most of them free. The largest event seems to be at the Pacific Mall with Chinese performers, and includes Hong Kong’s famous singer Alan Tam.
Markham: First Markham Place, 3255 Highway 7 East. Events: http://www.firstmarkhamplace.com/.
Mississauga Chinese Centre, 888 Dundas Street East, Mississauga. http://mississaugachinesecentre.com/. The website at this beautiful mall with its ancient Chinese architecture is not up to date. Usually has door-to-door lion dances. Free. Best to telephone for dates and times: 905-566-5606 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mississauga. January 26 to February 5. Free. Fo Guang Shan Temple, 6525 Millcreek Drive, Mississauga. “Come and light lamps as offerings to the Buddhas, sound the bell of peace, and participate in Dharma services to welcome the New Year.
“Everyone is welcome to visit Fo Guang Shan Temple… for festivities and joy. Bring home auspicious blessings and wisdom. We wish you a very Happy Chinese New Year, as well as auspiciousness and peace!”
Lunar New Year Fair. Feb 2, 3, (Sat/Sun) 11am~3pm; Feb 4, (Mon) 3pm ~ Feb 5, (Tue) 1am; Feb 5, (Tue) 11am~3pm
Chinese New Year’s Eve Chanting Service. Feb 4. (Mon) 8pm~9:30pm
New Year’s First Incense Offering. Feb 4, 2019 (Mon) 10:30pm ~ Feb 5,-, (Tue) 1am
Ringing of Peace Bell: Feb 4, (Thurs) 11pm ~ Feb 5, (Fri) 1am.
Chinese New Year’s Chanting Service: Feb 5 (Tue) 10am~12:30pm; Feb 10, (Sun) 10am~12:30pm.
Ruth’s Note: Thia temple fair here is one of my favourite New Year’s events. Money raised goes to the temple. Volunteers perform dragon dances, and children write good wishes in Chinese to take home and post on walls. This is how Buddhist temples celebrated in old China.
North York. Annual Jiaozi Party. February 9. 4-6:30pm. $10. Downsview United Church, 2822 Keele Street, just north of Hwy 401. Free parking. http://federation.tripod.com/events.html
Ruth’s Note: This is another one of my favourite Chinese New Year events because these very informal dumpling-making parties are common events in China still with families and friends. You not only help make dumpling from scratch, you feast on them after cooking. Last year, about 40 people took part in this jiaozi party. Unlike restaurants and malls, it has not been too crowded.
Scarborough. 7th Toronto – Qinhuai Lantern Show. Light Up to Celebrate The Year of the Pig. February 18. 5:30-9:30pm. Free. Bond Academy, 1500 Birchmount Road. 23 large handmade lanterns shaped like animals. Hundreds of innately artistic lanterns. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hK895Q5aJHk. Qinhuai is a district in Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu province, China. Www.Qinhuaidenghui.ca.
Spadina-Dundas Chinatown. Celebration. February 9-10. 12-5pm. Free. Dragon City Mall, 280 Spadina Avenue and Chinatown Center, 222 Spadina Avenue. https://www.chinatownbia.com/eventsnews/chinese-new-year-celebration
Spadina-Dundas Chinatown. TEOF Annual Lunar New Year Banquet. February 7. 6pm. $70 per person or $700 per table of ten. Dim Sum King Seafood Restaurant, 421 Dundas St. West, 3rd floor. This is a fund-raiser by the Retired Teachers of Ontario ”…to subsidize Nutrition Programs for 25 kindergarten programs and a monthly nutritious lunch for 23 Parenting Centre Healthy Lunch Programs in the Toronto District School Board.” For reservations, contact Carol Blachford: 416-395-2630, email@example.com; Valerie Mah: 416-533-0445, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ruth note: Food/banqueting is central to celebrations in Chinese and most other cultures. However, one or two people can’t experience a good Chinese banquet by themselves. You need to join a group of about 10 so you can have several different courses. This TEOF banquet is an opportunity to do so, and help a good cause.
Some New Year’s banquets start at $220. I must admit that my sister Valerie Mah is one of the organizers for this banquet which will also offer lion dancers, a silent auction, and door prizes for a much cheaper price. It’s only $70 per person!
Vaughan. Lunar New Year Celebration. February 3. 1:30-5pm. Vaughan City Hall, 2141 Major Mackenzie Drive West. Tel. 905-832-2281. http://www.vaughan.ca/projects/community/Pages/CNYeventdetails.aspx
A couple other Chinese New Year Customs:
Fortune telling: 2019 is the Year of the Pig/Boar/Swine, part of the 12 year cycle of zodiac animals. You are a pig if you were born in 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, etc.
Toronto’s most famous feng shui fortune teller Paul Ng’s website not only tells of his public appearances, but also his predictions for 2019 for each animal: https://www.paulng.com/news.aspx
Countdowns. You could take part in a “countdown” at midnight on New Year’s Eve. At Fo Guang Shan Temple and probably other temples, worshipers can line up for a chance to strike the temple bell. Some believe ringing the bell rids them of one of the 108 earthly temptations like jealousy, greed and lust.
More Chinese New Year events: https://www.eventbrite.com/d/canada–toronto/chinese-new-year-festival/
England. English Country Dancing. The dance form of Shakespeare, Jane Austen and Napoleon, February 2, 9, 16, 23, etc. All evenings run 7.30–10pm except for special events. $10 per person, families rates available. Trinity St Paul’s, 427 Bloor Street West.
7.30 – Basics lesson. Beginner-friendly lesson (free!)
8-10 — Dancing to live music! All dances taught, walked through and cued during the music: http://www.torontoenglishdance.ca/
Grenada. Flag Raising. Independence Day. February 6. Free. Ceremony at 12 noon. Courtesy flagpole at Toronto City Hall. https://www.toronto.ca/city-government/awards-tributes/tributes/flag-raising-half-masting/flag-raisings-2019/
India. Canada. Opening Reception. Vision Exchange: Perspectives from India to Canada, presented in tandem with P. Mansaram: The Medium is the Medium is the Medium and the Night of Ideas. Saturday, February 2. 5-7pm. Free. Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, University of Toronto Art Centre, 7 Hart House Circle. 416-978-8398.
Exhibition February 2 – March 23. “Works by 20 internationally recognized artists based in India and Canada. The exhibition takes its title from Akbar Padamsee’s ‘Vision Exchange Workshop’ (VIEW), initiated in Delhi and Bombay from 1969 until 1972 to promote interdisciplinary collaboration amongst painters, sculptors, photographers, writers and filmmakers and engage with the international avant-garde.” More information: https://artmuseum.utoronto.ca/exhibition/vision-exchange-perspectives-from-india-to-canada/
Exhibition Tour with Dr. Deepali Dewan, Wednesday, March 20. 6:30pm.
University of Toronto Art Centre
Drop In Guided Tours. Tuesdays at 2pm, beginning February 5. Meet at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery.
Interfaith. Interfaith Harmony Week. Inclusion in Action. February 1-7. Most events free. Various subjects, venues and times. First Nations, Rohingya and Uyghurs, Prison Chaplaincy, Violence against Women, Meditation in Different Faiths, etc. https://www.interfaithtoronto.ca/events.html.
Iran. Talk. Painted Treasures: the Art of Lacquer with Maryam Ekhtiar from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. February 3. 2pm. $20, $18 Friends, $12 students and seniors. Includes same-day museum admission (redeem at ticket desk). Aga Khan Museum, 77 Wynford Drive. Website: https://www.agakhanmuseum.org/programs/painted-treasures-the-art-of-lacquer-with-maryam-ekhtiar-from-the-metropolitan-museum-of-art
Ireland. Comhaltas Fundraising Ceili for Ronald McDonald House. Saturday, February 2. 7:30-11pm. Tickets at the door $15, $5 for children 5-12. All are welcome. Dawes Road Legion, Dawes Road and Danforth (east of Main, south of Danforth). Ronald McDonald House opens its doors to families with sick children – so they can stay together as a family during their difficult times. “We will also be honouring a hard working women in our community… raffle, sing song, treats, live music and dances called by Maureen Mulvey-O’Leary.” For more information or to donate, call Maureen at 416-446-6993 or email: email@example.com.
For more Irish events, get on Maureen Oleary’s mailing list at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sri Lanka. Flag Raising. Flag of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.
February 4. Ceremony at 10am. Free. Independence Day. Courtesy Flagpole at Toronto City Hall. https://www.toronto.ca/city-government/awards-tributes/tributes/flag-raising-half-masting/flag-raisings-2019/
Image of flag of Sri Lanka By Zscout370 – SLS 693 – National flag of Sri Lanka, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=433212
Syria. Armenia. The Museum as Studio: Kevork Mourad in Residence at the Aga Khan Museum. January 31-February 24. $10-$20. Aga Khan Museum, 77 Wynford Drive.
Watch Syrian-Armenian visual artist Kevork Mourad’s unique painting and printing process live, periodically from January 31 to February 12… View the completed artwork from February 13 to 24. https://www.agakhanmuseum.org/exhibitions/the-museum-as-studio-kevork-mourad-in-residence-at-the-aga-khan-museum
Tatarstan. Filius Kahirov. February 2. 6:30pm. York Woods Library Theatre, 1785 Finch Avenue West, North York. For more information, telephone 647-770-9293 or email: email@example.com.
Vietnam. Tết Vietnamese Lunar New Year Celebration. Wednesday, February 6. 12-2pm. Free. Mississauga City Hall, 300 City Centre Drive, Mississauga.: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/tet-vietnamese-lunar-new-year-celebration-tickets-55216426819?aff=ebd
Ruth’s note: TorontoMulticulturalCalendar.com chooses to promote events that encourage a feeling of community in our culturally-diverse city. Mention doesn’t mean endorsement as we try to include events we think readers will find stimulating in the cultures of other groups. If you go to any of our mentioned events, please send us corrections or an account of your impressions so we will know whether or not to mention these events in future.
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