How to Celebrate Chinese New Year in Calgary
The Year of the Rooster is here. Stock up on red packets, throw fish salad as high as you can and let lion dances entertain you.
[Ed. note: This article has been updated to reflect Chinese New Year 2017.]
Chinese New Year is a 15-day festival that celebrates the arrival of the new lunar year. This year, New Year’s Day is on January 28.
Even if you’ve never celebrated before, you can enjoy the holiday this year. Here’s everything you need to know, including cultural information, what to eat and what to do.
The 12-year zodiac cycle
Depending on whether you’re celebrating Korean, Japanese, Chinese or Vietnamese lunar new year, traditions alter slightly. For all though, 2017 is the Year of the Rooster. People born in the Year of the Rooster are said to be independent, humorous and honest.
Last year was the Year of the Monkey and 2018 will be the Year of the Dog.
The colour red
In Chinese culture, red is the colour of happiness, good luck and joy. While it’s lucky all year, the colour is especially prominent now in order to welcome in a lucky new lunar year.
Also traditional at this time of year is giving children and unmarried young people red packets — known as “hong bao” in Mandarin — filled with money. The packets symbolize good luck. Traditionally, fresh bank notes are given in order to symbolize new beginnings. The money is given in even amounts, as even numbers represent well-roundedness. Avoid $4 — the number four is considered inauspicious and is similar to the word “death” in dialects across China — and opt instead for $8. Eight is a lucky number.
What and where to eat
A traditional dish enjoyed by the ethnic Chinese in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia during Chinese New Year is called yuesheng. This is a raw fish salad that is mixed with shredded vegetables and sauces. The Chinese character for yuesheng is similar to the character that means "increased abundance." Because of this, the dish symbolizes abundance and prosperity. Families and guests will gather around the bowl and toss the salad with their chopsticks as high as they dare — the higher the toss, the luckier the year.
Other traditional treats enjoyed during Chinese New Year include bakkwa (a salty dried pork that's similar to jerky), love letters (cylindrical cookies made from eggs and coconut milk) and nian gao (a sticky rice cake).
It can be difficult to find these dishes in Calgary, but these three restaurants offer other traditional dishes.
As well as the usual dumplings and wontons, 1 Pot specializes in hot pot (which is also known as steamboat in parts of Southeast Asia). This is a kind of stew made up of anything and everything, including leafy vegetables, seafood and sliced meat.
123 3 Ave. S.E., 403-708-8088
Silver Dragon Restaurant
It’s likely that this restaurant will be packed with diners celebrating with their extended family during this time of year, which will only add to the ambience. Order favourites like long noodles, steamed pork dumplings and shrimp dumplings.
106 3 Ave. S.E., 403-264-5326
You can celebrate Chinese New Year with traditional dishes from this restaurant at just about any time of day. It is open 20 hours a day — from 8 a.m. to 4 a.m. — so come for an affordable breakfast of congee or organize a fancier dinner of Beijing duck.
201, 223 Centre St. S., 403-264-5988, uandmerestaurant.com
Things to do
Dates: Saturdays and Sundays until February 12
This is probably the city’s biggest Chinese New Year celebration. Festivities kicked off on January 21 with a lion dance, other dance performances and music. Celebrations will take place here every weekend until February 12, so even if you missed the opening ceremony, you can experience the holiday. Upcoming highlights include a Chinese lantern displays with riddles in English and Mandarin, martial arts demonstrations, traditional food, an indoor bazaar and more. Market Collective will also be at the Chinese Cultural Centre on February 3 to 5. Free admission (apart from Market Collective which is $5 for entire weekend.)
Calgary Chinese Cultural Centre, 197 1 St. S.W., culturalcentre.ca
Date: Saturday, January 28
The East Village and the Jing Wo Cultural Centre are ringing in the Year of the Monkey with a traditional lion dance along the RiverWalk at 4 p.m. Before or after the dance, stick around to sample a variety of Chinese pastries and sip on some green tea in the East Village Sales and Experience Centre. This is a free event.
East Village Sales and Experience Centre, 553 Riverfront Ave. S.E., 403-264-0309, evexperience.com
Date: Saturday, January 28
Chef Matthias Fong of River Cafe joins Chef Jamie Harling of Deane House to create a special dinner for Chinese New Year. As well as the a la carte menu, the two chefs will create eight sharing plates that pay tribute to Chinese New Year traditions. Expect dishes like steam buns and mooncakes, made using local ingredients.
Deane House, 806 9 Ave. S.E., deanehouse.com
Date: Saturday, January 28
Expect to sample traditional Chinese New Year dishes like moon cake as well as some dishes that are a little less traditional like charcuterie. The dinner will be prepared by Chef Duncan Ly, Chef Jinhee Lee and Chef Roy Oh. There will also be beer, sake and wine pairings. Tickets are $155 per person. Reserve your spot ahead of time by calling 1-888-711-9399 or visiting visainfinite.ca.
Foreign Concept, 1011 1 St. S.W., 403-719-7288, foreignconcept.ca; visainfinite.ca/dining
Date: Wednesday, February 8
This banquet is presented by the Calgary Chinese Merchants Association and the Chinatown District Business Revitalization Zone. This cultural and business event includes a traditional Chinese dinner, performances and networking opportunities. There is also the chance to win door prizes. The dress code is either business wear or traditional Chinese attire. Tickets are between $28 and $38 per person.
Regency Palace Seafood Restaurant, 328 Centre St. S.E., chinatowncalgary.com
Date: Saturday, February 11
This cultural and fundraising event begins at 5:30 p.m. with cocktails. The Chinese dinner and entertainment kicks off at 7:15 p.m., which is followed by a dance and live band at 9 p.m. Tickets are $98 per person. The dress code for the event is either formal or traditional Chinese attire.
Regency Palace Seafood Restaurant, 328 Centre St. S.E., sienlok.org