Canada's most authentic Asian enclave celebrates Chinese New Year with an abundance of lion dancers, flower shows and traditional feasts - evoking the Far East on the West Coast
Richmond, BC, Canada â Can't get to China this month to ring in the mighty Year of the Dragon? Not to worry - with a population that's 65 per cent Asian and with the largest proportion of Canadian residents of Chinese ancestry (44 per cent), Richmond, BC is the convenient and authentic substitute for North American travelers.
From the weeks leading up to New Year's Day (January 23) through to February 6, the city is chock-full of lively New Year festivities guaranteed to make any visitor feel they've been whisked off the continent. Whether tucking into an indulgent 12-course banquet or participating in the soothing prayer ceremonies of a Buddhist temple, Richmond's Chinese New Year has something for everyone:
Scrumptious SpreadsRichmond has been declared home to "the best Chinese food outside of Chinaâ by everyone from the New York Times to Conde Nast Traveler and the Chinese New Year is the ideal time to sample the city's world-famous cuisine. New Year's Eve (January 22) is the big night for dining out amongst local families â anyone wanting to do the same will have to make reservations at least a week in advance. Acclaimed eateries such as Jade Seafood Restaurant, Shanghai River and Northern Delicacy all offer set multi-course menus â some with as many as 12 or 13 courses - featuring popular New Year dishes like rice cakes and steamed whole fish (symbolizing wishful abundance for the coming year). If you can't make it out on the 22nd, these plentiful feasts are available onwards for a two week period. Be sure to also stop by Alexandra Road, the city's 'Wai Sek Kai' or 'Food Street', where 200-plus Asian eateries serve tasty specialties like xiao long bao ("soup dumplings"), hot pot and hand-pulled noodles.
Temple Tradition Modeled after Beijing's Forbidden City and one of the largest Buddhist temples in North America, the International Buddhist Temple annually hosts various Chinese New Year festivities within its ornate halls. Between January 18 and 29, the gilded temple will hold a Chinese New Year bazaar where visitors can browse elaborate flower arrangements, enjoy traditional snacks and foods, and pick up good-luck gift items. On New Year's Eve (January 22), the Temple will open for late-night festivities until 1 a.m. â at midnight, the Venerable Guan Cheng will lead a chant and group prayer. On New Year's morning, the temple receives as many as 10,000 visitors for a prayer ceremony that is followed by a vegetarian lunch. All are welcome to attend.
Paint the Town Red (Literally) at Our Asian MallsAside from the acclaimed food scene, the main attractions in Richmond's city centre, dubbed the Golden Village, are three large Hong-Kong inspired malls where the latest in art, fashion and household goods come direct from Taiwan and China. Throughout the Chinese New Year, these retail Meccas are decked with red and gold streamers, tasseled lanterns and peach blossom trees. Richmond's largest Asian mall, Aberdeen Centre, kicks off the festivities from January 19 with their annual flower and gift fair â imagine rows upon rows of tables laden with brightly-coloured Asian artwork, lanterns and orchards. The mega-mall will also host a spirited midnight countdown celebration on New Year's Eve (January 22) while Golden Dragon and lion dancers are set to boisterously encircle the centre on New Year's Day morning (the 23rd). And on the 28th and 29th, the mall's central atrium will feature numerous cultural performances from local musicians and dancers. Next door at fellow Asian mall Yaohan Centre, a similar flower market begins the New Year cheer extra early on January 9 and New Year's Day merriment includes fire crackers and a visit from the Fortune God in addition to lion and dragon dancing. Yaohan will also host a one-of-a-kind Chinese Book Fair from January 13 to 20 featuring more than 10,000 works on subjects ranging from cuisine to history to health â exquisite New Year decorations as well as Chinese paintings, embroideries and delicate paper cuttings will also be displayed. Parker Place will have a dragon dancer and Fortune God stop by all shops on January 27 to bring prosperity for the coming year. On the 29th, a more public celebration will be held with lion Dancers and live performances in the centre court. If you're looking for a little extra good luck throughout the year, be sure to pop out to the parking lot to leave an offering at the mall's Buddhist shrine.
Community Commemoration Richmond's local organizations are joining in on the fun with a slew of public exhibits and presentations. The Richmond Chinese Community Society is congregating at Lansdowne Centre on January 22 to present a lively Year of the Dragon kick-off with performances by local artists, dancers and musicians. In addition to demonstrations of Chinese folk dance, martial art and calligraphy, the event includes a lucky red envelope gift and complimentary hot tea for all visitors. Over at the Richmond Public Library Brighouse branch, the Consulate General of the People's Republic of China is presenting a free photo exhibit from January 19 to February 6 that demonstrates how the Lunar New Year is celebrated throughout different regions of China. The library will also have crafts, games, performances and prizes on offer January 28.
New Year Revelry at the River Rock Show TheatreBritish Columbia's largest casino, the River Rock Casino Resort, is marking the Chinese New Year with several much-anticipated performances in its show theatre. On New Year's Eve, the gaming complex will throw a glamorous Year of the Dragon charity extravaganza featuring fortune tellers, singers and a lion dance troupe with all proceeds benefitting the BC Children's Hospital Foundation. Then on January 28 and 29, famed Chinese musician Natalie Sin will stop by the 1,000 seat theatre for a special New Year concert. Tickets for both shows are available online at www.riverrock.com.
About Tourism Richmond Tourism Richmond is a non-profit, membership driven destination marketing organization (DMO). The primary mandate of Tourism Richmond is to enhance awareness about the destination through sales and marketing initiatives and by providing excellent visitor and member services. Ultimately, Tourism Richmond's goal is to increase economic activity related to tourism for the City of Richmond and all stakeholders. Tourism Richmond is British Columbia's 4th largest DMO.
Michelle DunnDirector of CommunicationsTourism RichmondDirect: 604-821-5481 Cell: 778-822-5481Email: email@example.com