East Asian communities in Nova Scotia celebrate Year of the Rabbit this Lunar New Year

A woman shops for Chinese New Year decorations at a market in the Chinatown area of Jakarta, Indonesia, earlier this month. Nations across East and Southeast Asia celebrate the beginning of the Lunar New Year on Sunday. (Tatan Syuflana/The Associated Press - image credit)
A woman shops for Chinese New Year decorations at a market in the Chinatown area of Jakarta, Indonesia, earlier this month. Nations across East and Southeast Asia celebrate the beginning of the Lunar New Year on Sunday. (Tatan Syuflana/The Associated Press - image credit)

East Asian communities in Nova Scotia are ringing in the Lunar New Year this weekend, looking for longevity, happiness and prosperity in the Year of the Rabbit.

The Chinese Society of Nova Scotia's new year's event is sold out. Though Lunar New Year falls on Sunday, the venue wasn't available until early February. Demand for the event was high after two years without such a large celebration.

"We were selling the tickets, but realized it was more popular than we expected," said Alex Li, chair of community outreach at the society.

Li said the banquet is a highlight for many in the Chinese Nova Scotian community, but people also carry out traditions in their own living rooms and kitchens. He said customs differ depending on the region you're from, but one thing unites them all: food and the colour red.

Some in the Chinese diaspora in Nova Scotia have given their traditions a local spin.

"The go-to food, also depending on the region, would be chicken or fish," Li said. "I came to North Scotia in 2004, so we got lobster from time to time, and that's the local food and also when it's fully cooked it's red."

Aastha Shetty/CBC
Aastha Shetty/CBC

Other traditions include eating sweet rice cakes and the older generation giving gifts to the younger ones in red envelopes.

In the nearly 20 years since he's been in Nova Scotia, he's seen the Chinese community expand. He said the Chinese Society of Nova Scotia provides resources for newcomers like networking events and help settling into a new home.

"We see a growing demand for that too and we are growing, and we're definitely looking for more volunteers with different backgrounds to join us," Li said.

Valley celebrations

In the Annapolis Valley, the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts is hosting their own celebration on Sunday.

The by-donation event will have street-style Korean, Japanese, Indonesian and Chinese food, Indonesian shadow puppets, a dragon dance, and all-ages arts activities.

Chris O'Neill, the centre's director, said these events can be a catalyst for people to learn about cultures other than their own.

"We always hope ... that people who have no familiarity with the cultures that we're exploring also come and use it as an opportunity to kind of play and learn and be curious about something that they're not as exposed to," O'Neill said.

Ross Creek is partnering with the Wong International Centre at Acadia University so international students can experience a taste of home.

"When we've worked with people who are coming from that culture, sometimes it's really especially meaningful to them that they see other people who don't look like them are coming and engaged and excited about learning."

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