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Photos: Sudburians celebrate Lunar New Year

Whether it’s in Cantonese ‘Kung Hei Fat Choy’,  or Mandarin, ‘Gong Xi Fa Cai’, it means ‘Wishing you prosperity’ for the new year

It's not often I'm at the centre of the event. Reporters are usually on the edges of the fun, taking notes and photos, trying to remain unseen.

But tonight, among the red lanterns of Lunar New Year, I am an invited guest of the Chinese Heritage Association of Northern Ontario (CHANO), here to enjoy the performance and the feast. CHANO has been a part of the Sudbury landscape since 1998, and became a registered non-profit last year.

And though I can’t help but take photos, I feel honoured, welcome, and in awe of the army of volunteers that created such a special evening.

I was there by request of CHANO president, Yu Peng (Patrick) Lyu, and sat at a table with him and his wife, Bei Shen, whose warm smile is enough to make anyone feel at home. Directly beside me is seated their son, Chenan Lyu, a student at LoEllen. He was a big help to me, especially when I asked him to show me how to eat intact shrimp. That, and since he had been in charge of making rice for the event, I asked him for tips. He told me some; then his mother corrected him in Mandarin, and he told me an even easier way.

Chinese New Year, or Lunar New Year, is based on the moon calendar. A lunar month is the time between the new moon and the full moon. In 2023, Jan. 21 is the eve of the Jan. 22 New Year’s Day. 

Legends tell of the monster, Nian, who would attack villages on Lunar New Year’s eve until one man, a mysterious stranger, arrived and survived an attack by the monster, and the village was left untouched. When asked how, the man told the village he scared Nian away by hanging red banners on the door, wearing red and lighting firecrackers, traditions that continue today, and especially in the decorations at the Parkside Older Adults Centre. 

That, and it was so filled with guests they almost ran out of room. 

“We only expected 100 or so,” said Lyu, “and now we have 240, only ten less than the room allows.” 

The preparation had begun much earlier than the 6 p.m. start. Not just food prep, done by all the local restaurants, including 7 Star Chinese Restaurant, Tai Express, Okinawa Sushi, Nexus Pizza, Kinhao Sushi, Happy Yummy Restaurant and Good Lucky 168, but decorations as well. The banners contained auspicious phrases in Mandarin and Cantonese wishing attendees “good health” (shen ti jian kang or san tai gin hong), “safe journey” (chu ru ping an or Ceot jap peng on) or “good fortune” (Fu or Fuk).

That, and sometimes 10- to 15-day festivities that go on behind the scenes.

The week before, on the 24th day of the lunar new year month, festive cakes and puddings are made. It was Jan. 15 this year.  

A big cleanup is done in homes on the 28th day of the last lunar month, which fell on Jan. 19. This is done to rid the home of bad luck from the previous year and make it hospitable for the new luck of the year to stay.

And then, on Lunar New Year’s Eve, the fest. A family reunion dinner — and in this case, a reunion of the newcomers to Sudbury — that brings everyone together to celebrate. 

Called ‘Chunyun’, the rush that comes with Chinese people travelling home to celebrate the event, is considered the largest annual human migration in the world

Traditional garb included the HanMing, Tang Suits, and Cheongsam (also called Qipao), and most wore at least a touch of red, including a young man in an Iron Man t-shirt. 

This year is the Year of Rabbit, as in the Chinese zodiac, (Sheng Xiao or Shu Xiang), features 12 animal signs in a specific order: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. 

In use for more than 2,000 years, the 12 Chinese zodiac animals not only are used to represent years in China, but also believed to influence people’s personalities, career, compatibility, marriage and fortune.

Celebrations also included performances, and I can tell you that it was a treat to watch, to learn, and to cheer for the children who performed a Happy Chinese New Year dance. Chanun Lyu also played his violin. His performance began with conversations going, and by the end, you could hear every note. Also included were songs played on the ‘erhu’, a chinese two-stringed fiddle and the ‘pipa’ (Chinese lute).

His mother is deeply proud of her son, who I can tell you is charismatic and very funny. Shen told me when she was explaining each year’s animal to her son, he asked her how the rat managed to beat the ox for first place. She asked him what he believed may have happened, and laughs when she recalls his suggestion the rat hid on the ox, and jumped off at the last minute to win.

More information can be found on CHANO’s website, found here, and their facebook page, found here. Lyu said CHANO has already been thinking of a summer event. He also asked that I thank all the volunteers, because “this party won’t be successful without them.”

Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with Sudbury.com. She covers the diverse communities of Sudbury, especially the vulnerable or marginalized, including the Black, Indigenous, newcomer and Francophone communities, as well as 2SLGBTQ+ and issues of the downtown core.


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Jenny Lamothe

About the Author: Jenny Lamothe

Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with Sudbury.com. She covers the diverse communities of Sudbury, especially the vulnerable or marginalized.
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