The Lunar New Year starts this year on January 25. Some events have actually happened earlier. This is a time for visits with family and friends, banqueting, new clothes, checking horoscopes, and paying off debts. One hopes the banqueting and being debt-free will continue all year.
You can expect most of the following cultural groups to have expensive banquets and galas. Many of them also celebrate with free events in malls, community centres and public libraries. This is a good year for those born in the Year of the Rat. We all need a good year.
Update: Unfortunately it started out badly with an outbreak of coronavirus in China. Some of the following might be cancelled because of the fear. So please check with the organizers to see whether or not these events are still a “go”.
China. 14% of Toronto’s population have Chinese ancestry.* Many other Torontonians also celebrate the Chinese New Year in one form or other. You can be sure of many choices when we all celebrate. Getting together with our Chinese-Canadian residents is a good opportunity to talk about what’s happening in Hong Kong.
The main New Year’s days are January 25, 26 and 27. The holiday officially ends with the Lantern Festival 15 days later on February 8 but the celebrations continue well into February.
My favourite event is the Jiaozi Party organized by the Canada-China Friendship Association open to everyone February 8 at 4pm to make jiaozi, and 6:30pm even if you just want to eat. $10. Alas, it is cancelled. Jiaozi parties are traditional among friends and family, very small and fun. All you do is make and eat dumplings. For more information, email: email@example.com or telephone Jeff at 1-905-630-6333. firstname.lastname@example.org. Ref. http://federation.tripod.com/events.html
My second favourite is the traditional New Year Fair at Fo Guang Shan Temple, 65525 Millcreek Drive in Mississauga which starts January 18 and continues to January 26. Free. These fairs are run by friendly volunteers from this temple and make me think of old, pre-modern China with its wish trees, children making good luck signs in Chinese, and candied hawthorn sticks. Fo Guang Shan also has dragon dances and a New Year’s Countdown. https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/2020-fo-guang-shan-temple-of-toronto-chinese-new-year-fair-tickets-87447779663
A Visit to Toronto’s many Chinatowns and malls which sell lucky laisee envelopes, calligraphy, and pictures of the Kitchen God can give you a feeling of this most important of Chinese festivals. It’s free of charge to browse unless you can’t resist buying the special new year’s snacks available there too.
Each of the GTA’s 50-plus Chinese shopping centres will probably have some Chinese New Year’s program. Look around their central stages or food courts for posters and in advertisements in the free ethnic newspapers outside grocery stores.
The programs at the Chinatown malls are usually fun, but very crowded. Some of them have competitions and flash mobs as well as creative lion or dragon dances and singing children. If you don’t mind crowds, these are worth joining but you have to endure a lot of speeches from officials and politicians. Try to get there early if you want a seat. In some cases, only the VIPs get good seats.
Performances: Some of the malls have the longer, more spectacular dragon dances. All could have lion dances, dancers and singing children, and other performers. They start out with officials dotting the eyes of the lions to bring the animals to life. The God of Fortune should appear distributing chocolate Loonies to everyone within reach.
The biggest mall is Markham’s Pacific Mall, 4300 Steeles Avenue East (at Kennedy). It usually has popular performers from Hong Kong as well. For its events: https://www.pacificmalltoronto.ca/mall-event.
Dragon City Mall, 280 Spadina Avenue. Free. https://www.toronto-bia.com/event/2020-lunar-year-celebration/
First Markham Place, 3255 Highway 7 East, Markham: http://ww2.firstmarkhamplace.com/en/upcomingevents/
Fortune Telling by Toronto’s famous geomancer Paul Ng is free online. On his site, you can find your Chinese zodiac animal and what it means for your new year. For his 2020 appearance schedule and predictions, see: https://www.paulng.com/news.aspx
Door-to-Door Lion Dances. Free. This is another Chinese tradition as dancers collect money and real lettuce from the top of doorways in Chinese malls. Lion dancers shred the lettuce and toss pieces back to patrons for good luck. The dancers of course keep the money. These athletes are amazing. To find these roving groups, just follow the sound of the drums on Chinese New Year weekends near Chinese commercial areas; for example, lions and drummers will go door to door and into some restaurants in East Chinatown at Gerrard and Broadview on Sunday, February 2, from 12-2pm.
Performing Lion Dancers. If you’ve seen one, you haven’t seen them all. Athletic clubs compete with each other with newer and better variations of this traditional dance usually found during mall performances.
New Year Countdowns. These happen in some malls and temples at midnight on New Years Eve. People who pay a fee can each toll a giant bell which should ring a total of 108 times as they try to get rid of the 108 “defilements”: jealousy, greed, sarcasm, envy, etc. If only such was so easy. ————————————————————————————–
Chinese temples will be specially decorated for prayers or meditation during the new year period; for example, Cham Shan Temple at 7254 Bayview Avenue, Thornhill. Tel. 905-886-1522; or the spectacular Jing Yin Temple, 722 Brimley in Scarborough. They are open during the day. Just leave your shoes at the door, walk in, and tour the sanctuary clockwise. Leave a donation.
Chinese Banquets: You need at least a table for 10 before you can really experience a traditional Chinese banquet with its wide variety of special dishes. Banquets are not cheap.
Downtown, there’s the black-tie Dragon Ball, the annual benefit gala for Yee Hong Community Wellness Foundation. It is one of Toronto’s premier events. January 25. 5:30 pm, dinner at 7pm. Tickets start at $480 per person. Metro Toronto Convention Centre, 255 Front Street West. For a video of a previous year, see and wonder: https://www.yeehongdragonball.org/
Then there’s the TEOF Annual Lunar New Year Banquet. It is organized by my sister Valerie Mah and other former teachers on February 6 at Dim Sum King, 421 Dundas Street West (near Spadina). $70. It raises money for the Retired Teachers of Ontario’s nutrition program for Inner City school children. Of course, this is the one I am going to join and splurge on. It’s a good cause with good food and fun, and not just because it’s family. But there are many other such charity banquets too.
For more Chinese New Year’s events including banquets in Markham: http://www.guidingstar.ca/chinese-new-year-in-markham.
China. Jiangsu Province. The 8th Toronto-Qinhuai Lantern Festival, organized by Ontario-Jiangsu Friendship Association. Saturday, February 8. 6:15-9:30pm. $5-10. 1500 Birchmount Road, Scarborough.
“The Festival will exhibit 25 sets of large Qinhuai lanterns and hundreds of medium and small size lanterns handmade with traditional techniques that have been handed down for over 2,000 years and have been recognized as the Intangible Cultural Heritage of China… enjoy Lantern-Lighting Ceremony, Lion Dance, and Chinese arts & performances, experience traditional Chinese festival activities, taste delicious Qinhuai snacks, and win a variety of prizes.For some of these and other Chinese events around the city: https://www.toronto.com/whatson-story/9800240-welcome-the-year-of-the-rat-at-these-lunar-new-year-events-in-toronto/
Japan. Japanese New Year’s Festival 2020. January 26. 11am-3pm. JCCC members: $5, family (up to 2 adults and 3 children) $15; Non-members: $7, Family $18, Senior / children (6-12 years old) $5, Under 5 years old free. Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, 6 Garamond Court.
“Taiko Drumming, Japanese traditional lion dance, Shrine display, calligraphy, Matcha tea serving, a lot of delicious foods for sale, demonstration of Mochi Making (mochitsuki) where participants are encouraged to take part! In the Children’s play area traditional new year’s games and plays are available to both enjoy and participate in. The first 100 children visitors can receive Otoshidama near Admission area.” https://www.jccc.on.ca/en/————————————————————————————————–
Korea. Korean Lunar New Year Festival. February 1. 11am. General admission is free but there’s a charge for entering some of the traditional competitions like Yutnori. Korean Canadian Cultural Association, 1133 Leslie Street, North York.
You can watch folk games, performances, arm wrestling, etc. Information from email@example.com and http://kccaen.lease4biz.com/toronto-kcca-news/?uid=43&mod=document .
Korea. Buddhist. Lunar New Year’s Day Sangha Potluck. January 25. 6pm. Bring a vegetarian dish. Zen Buddhist Temple, 86 Vaughan Road.
This is a good time to meet members of this temple, most of whom are not necessarily Korean. I went one year, found it lots of fun and learned something about Zen Buddhism. https://www.zenbuddhisttemple.org/toronto
Malaysia. 2020 Lunar New Year Annual Gala. February 8. 6pm. $65. Grandeur Palace, 2301 Brimley Road, Scarborough. Malaysian Association of Canada. http://www.malaysian.ca/
Malayasia. Singapore. Chinese New Year Dinner & Dance. February 8. 6pm. $55. Golden Palace Banquet Hall, First Markham Place, 3225 Hwy 7 #1, Markham.
Tibet. Losar. Tibetan New Years. February 29. Tibetan Canadian Cultural Centre, 40 Titan Road, Etobicoke. Phone: 416-410-5606. https://www.tcccgc.org/events/losar-2020/.
More information later about this religious, musical, and culinary program.
Tibet. Tibetan New Year. Losar. Tibetans have several temples in Toronto, each connected to a monastery in Tibet or India. A very beautiful one is in the Junction near Keele and Dundas. February 24. For Losar it is open from 8am. Free but donations appreciated. Riwoche Tibetan Buddhist Temple, 28 Heintzman Street. 416-766-7964.
“Traditionally, people do not eat before coming to the temple. After chanting and praying together we go downstairs and have some traditional Tibetan fare (rice with raisins and Tibetan cookies ). This way, we have the first meal of the New Year together. It is also traditional to buy some new, never worn, clothes and wear them to the event (not mandatory, but a nice custom). It is also customary to make offerings to the lamas, monks, and nuns of the Temple when visiting on this day.” http://www.riwoche.com/.
Vietnam. Tet. 2020. January 18. 10am-8pm. Free-$20. International Centre, 6900 Airport Road, Hall 5.
This is a huge, multi-splendoured event too. https://www.blogto.com/events/vietnamese-lunar-new-year-tet-community-festival-2020-toronto/ .
Ruth’s Note: 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 as many other groups as possible. We consider all events an opportunity to meet people from other cultures. If you go to any of our mentioned events, please send us corrections or an account of your impressions.
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