Aberdeen takes Chinese New Year countdown virtual

·3 min read

Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, is usually a time of huge public celebration in Richmond and around the world.

Traditionally, Chinese New Year’s Eve celebrations include a big meal, prayer or parties. On New Year’s Day, lion dances welcome in the new year and scare away evil spirits. Firecrackers may also be lit throughout the night to disperse of these spirits. The colour red, central to Chinese New Year celebrations, symbolizes joy, virtue, truth and sincerity.

At Aberdeen Centre—the Lower Mainland’s largest Asian mall—Chinese New Year has been celebrated in a major way for 25 years. Normally, there would be a countdown show on Chinese New Year’s Eve, and then large-scale live performances on New Year’s Day, including dragon and lion dances, firecrackers, and stage performances.

But this year, with all gatherings banned and people spending more time at home, festivities are being taken online.

“This year is very different,” says Tiffany Ho, senior vice-president and senior general manager of Fairchild Developments, which operates the mall. “All the events, indoor and outdoor, have to be suspended this year—but we will still do a lot of decorations.”

The mall’s fountain, which was decorated for Christmas amid the temporary cancellation of its musical show, is now filled with figurines—including one of the cow or ox to mark this year as the Year of the Ox. And Ho says there are also decorations like Chinese lanterns throughout the mall.

And the countdown show will happen virtually through the mall’s connection with Fairchild Radio and Fairchild TV. The channels will air a program beginning around 10:55 on Chinese New Year’s Eve, which will run past midnight. Normally, Fairchild TV is only for subscribers, but for the month of February it will be free to anyone with cable.

Some performances will feature overseas performers, as well as blessings and fortune telling for the year to come—popular shows, Ho notes.

Video clips from the countdown event will be posted on Aberdeen Centre’s social media channels for more people to share in the celebration.

“This is more like Christmas to us, to everybody, so I don’t think people will forget,” she says of the unusual year. “We are working hard to make sure that the local community will continue as much as possible, without any disruption.”

After the first day of the New Year—Feb. 12 this year—there are other significant days with their own celebrations. The seventh day of the new year is referred to as everybody’s birthday, and the 15th day is Chinese Valentine’s Day, says Ho.

She adds that, because of the many days of celebrating, decorations will likely stay up at Aberdeen Centre throughout the month of February.

While normally people would share big meals with family and friends, this year more restaurants are developing take out options. Fisherman’s Terrace Seafood Restaurant is one of Aberdeen Centre’s tenants, and they are offering layered take out boxes with traditional foods.

“People are used to ordering take out now, and taking it back home for celebration,” says Ho.

Anyone who visits Aberdeen Centre on New Year’s Day will be able to partake in one of their usual practices—giving out fai chun (posters sharing well wishes or good luck messages).

The pivot to a largely virtual format has been necessary this year, but Ho hopes the introduction of a COVID-19 vaccine will mean next year’s celebration can be more traditional.

“Hopefully next year everything will be back to normal,” she says. “We stay very positive.”

Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel