Vivian Li

Vivian Li

Trail residents celebrate Chinese New Year

Annual New Year celebration rooted in meaning and promise

For those of you who failed on your New Year’s resolutions, you have a second chance: today is a day of new beginnings, of infinite positive outcomes.

It is also a day of great significance for Chinese people as today is New Year’s Day in the Chinese calendar.

Considered the centre piece for the greatest celebration of the year in Chinese culture, New Year’s brings with it much meaning and promise for the coming year.

And with Monday marking the beginning of the Year of the Dragon — during which the world economy does a little better — the well wishing and good fortune have already arrived.

For Vivian Li, who immigrated to Canada in 1996 at the age of 24, her family retains some aspects of the centuries old traditions surrounding New Year’s, including the food and the meaning behind the celebration.

Her father, Kwong, cooked for a few days before New Year’s, making taro and sponge cakes, in the family’s commercial kitchen at the Ace of Taste, a Chinese food restaurant on Bay Avenue.

Her mother, Eva, spent Friday cleaning and Saturday preparing traditional food, like chicken, stuffed tofu, a scrambled egg old style Chinese “wallet” with meat stuffing (“It means your wallet is always full, full of monies, never get poor.”).

“This is the beginning of the new year so all of the wishes come to the top,” Vivian said Saturday at the restaurant she operates with her husband, Jack.

“If you have a job, you are always wishing you are doing better and you are going up, never on the bottom. You are to reach the peak. It means good wishes for the new year.”

Although the celebration Vivian and her family partake of in Trail — where they moved to seven years ago — is greatly reduced than the one they enjoyed in Guangzhou, Canton, China’s third largest city, the meaning associated with it has not diminished.

In Guangzhou, Vivian was surrounded by an immense extended family, with 16 aunts and uncles and dozens of cousins on her dad’s side of the family alone.

They would all gather on New Year’s for a meal, and at 12 a.m. on New Year’s Eve firecrackers would go off, filling the streets with smoke and sparkling, spinning and bursting lights for 30 minutes.

“That meant good luck, so the coming year brings good luck for everyone,” Vivian said.

After the light show everyone went inside and enjoyed a rice dumpling dessert. Even the children were allowed to stay up late to enjoy the firecrackers and the dessert, Vivian said.

After dessert people would go out to the night market for fruit and flowers, with market stalls spread out three bays deep with vendors from all over the nearby countryside.

“It was shoulder-to-shoulder with so many people. You can’t even imagine that here in Trail,” she said. “Buying something at the market meant bringing the luck home for the New Year.”

Firecrackers are now outlawed in the streets of most Chinese cities due to their inherent fire hazard, but they can still set them off in certain designated empty spaces.

“Celebrating the Chinese New Year was the biggest thing in our life, it was like looking forward, like Christmas. It’s the biggest celebration of the year,” she said.

A meaning that has not diminished in Canada, even though Vivian and Jack’s two children — Curtis, 9, and Titus, 7 — consider themselves Canadian.

“China is a stranger to them … but this still makes us still feel like we are Chinese,” she said.

But the New Year celebration and all it holds it not only just for China, said Vivian.

“We want to share the happiness with the whole world,” she said. “It’s a good beginning. Hopefully, in the year of the dragon, it will bring the most success for everyone.”