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Toronto celebrates Lunar Fest

June 14th, 2014 · No Comments


Sergeant Leanne Jones on Major, and P.C. Shane Syms riding Viscount, of Toronto Police Mounted Unit made a surprise appearance at the launch of the Year of the Horse. Brian Burchell/Gleaner News


With red lanterns and dumplings 2014 welcomes the Year of the Horse

By Samina Esha

The CIBC Lunar Festival celebrates one of Asia’s most eminent holidays, the Chinese New Year or the Lunar New Year, and 2014 is the Year of the Horse. The festival was held at the Harbourfront Centre on the weekend of Jan. 25 and 26 with colourful displays, workshops, theatrics, and even dumplings to corroborate Toronto’s diversity.

Toronto is famous for its cultural celebrations and for years the Harbourfront has been the setting for this cultural outlet.

“The core of this festival is to engage the community and Harbourfront is one cultural venue that engages communities of various different backgrounds,” said Charlie Wu, managing director of the Asian-Canadian Special Events Association, the organizer of CIBC Lunar Fest.

While the Lunar Fest is a means for the Asian community to bond with their heritage, it is also a way for other communities to get involved and explore a new culture.

“Chinese, Korean, Taiwanese, we all celebrate Lunar New Year and this event brings everyone together as one. This is the Year of the Horse which not only connects us to one of the creatures most significant to mankind but also brings back childhood memories for many,” said Mr. Wu.

To acknowledge the Year of the Horse – a symbol of grace, beauty, and strength – this year’s festival showcased a 15-foot rocking horse. The festival incorporates different elements of arts such as the lantern theatre, which combines artistry of both Canadian and Taiwanese lantern artists.

“Lanterns have always been used as a visual display but we are combining theatrics and taking a trip to different parts of Asia with fascinating stories and history,” said Mr. Wu.

Lunar Fest was established during the 2009 Vancouver Winter Olympics as a Legacy event. According to the festival organization, “Lunar Fest is Canada’s premier presenter of contemporary expression in Asian arts and culture. It endeavours to reach new Canadians and those who have been here for many generations to share in the diversity of Canada.”

Celebrated on the first day of the year of the Chinese calendar, which is lunisolar, the Lunar New Year is also called the Spring Festival. A traditional Chinese holiday, it is celebrated in countries including China, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia, to name a few.

The 15-day celebration not only includes family reunion but also collaborates everything that is red. The colour red is thought to be a symbol of good fortune, longevity, wealth, and happiness. A theme that can be seen in the traditional decorations from red lanterns, to red couplets and paper-cuts, along with fireworks.

The source of Chinese New Year itself goes back centuries and it gains its significance from several myths and traditions. Customarily, the festival was a time to honour deities and ancestors and to reconnect with family. According to folklore every New Year Nian, a mythical beast, would terrorize the villagers by eating their livestock, villagers, and especially little children. To stop Nian, villagers would put food on their doorsteps. However, one year they noticed the beast was scared of a little child wearing the colour red. From then on the villagers would decorate their houses, streets, and even themselves with red and a tradition was born.

For Zhang Li, a second-generation Asian, Lunar Fest is merely an instrument to reconnect with her roots.

“As an Asian-Canadian, events like Lunar Fest are not only important for our younger generation but also for our older ones. I am here today with my grandmother and although she does not speak English, these stories and foods take her back home,” said Li.

In its fourth year, Lunar Fest is part of the community building that fosters both culture and history with artistic components.

“Even eating dumplings plays a significant role in Asian culture and there is also the dumpling fest. We are just excited to bring an event that is truly for the entire family,” said Mr. Wu.

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