An arctic air mass that had parked itself over much of Western Canada couldn’t keep a small band of spectators away from the annual lunar new year celebrations held in Edmonton’s so called Chinatown North, the area north of the traditional Chinatown around Jasper Avenue and 97th Street that grew with waves of Chinese and Asian immigrants in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s.

With day time temperatures hovering in the low -30’s Celsius with windchill, the outdoor celebrations went in a decidedly different direction with civic dignitaries, performers and spectators alike all huddled in the Pacific Rim Mall until showtime. A delicious detour while awaiting the festivities proved to be the Dynasty Century Palace restaurant, well known for its Dim Sum.

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This lunar new year is the 4716th Chinese year and is the Year of the Pig, the twelfth of the 12-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar.  While the pig isn’t thought to be a smart but lazy animal in China on the positive side, it behaves itself, harms no others, and can bring affluence to people and so the year is regarded as bringing wealth.

The dragon dance is most often performed at new year’s as dragons are seen to bring good luck to people and that the longer the dragon in the dance the more luck it will bring to the whole community.

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The lion dance is another traditional Chinese dance performed major holidays such as the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) for good luck, as it is believed that the lion is an auspicious animal. Members of Edmonton’s Canadian Ging Wu Kung Fu Martial Arts Association performed the lion dance.

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Lighting firecrackers is another major custom as it’s said to scare off evil spirits and celebrate the coming of the New Year. I braved the wicked wind get up close to the hanging strands of firecrackers, a little too close as flying debris came my way but luckily caused no lasting damage.

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To many an Occidental eye the annual celebrations may seem exclusively Chinese however the lunar new year holiday is observed throughout Asia as its known as Eumnyeok Seollal in Korea and Tet Nguyen Dan, or simply Tet and other events to mark the special occasion were held around Edmonton. I promised to attend more events marking this Oriental occasion next year on the condition the weather gods favored Edmonton with warmer weather.