Happy New Year: Edmonton celebrates a Lunar New Year extravaganza

CBC Edmonton is sponsoring a Lunar New Year event this weekend at West Edmonton Mall. (CBC - image credit)
CBC Edmonton is sponsoring a Lunar New Year event this weekend at West Edmonton Mall. (CBC - image credit)

New year cheers are continuing to spread across the city with the Edmonton Chinatown Multicultural Centre's Lunar New Year celebration.

The annual event — this year celebrating the Year of the Rabbit — returns to West Edmonton Mall's Ice Palace, said Henry Fung, chairman of the organization.

The event, sponsored by CBC Edmonton, goes this weekend — 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

"We want to share the Lunar New Year with everyone," Fung told CBC's Radio Active.

"It is a big celebration within the Asian community, it's not only Chinese. We are a cultural centre and we want to pass on the traditions and customs into the greater society."

Lunar New Year begins between the end of January and the end of February, and is based on the phases of the moon. It's determined by a calendar first adopted in China.

For the Chinese community, it is the year's biggest festival, said Patrick Ng, executive administrator at the multicultural centre.

Families buy new clothes and clean their homes. Friends and family come together for a big dinner.

"It's a symbol of having a good start," Ng said. Children, he added, get especially excited to receive their red envelopes of cash, "a blessing of good health and fortune."

Listen | Celebrate the Year of the Rabbit with Edmonton local band EVER  

Edmonton locals will perform a variety of shows featuring kung fu demonstrations, music, traditional dances, and dragon and lion dances.

The lion dance, symbolizing power, wisdom, and superiority, is essential to the celebration and is performed to bring good luck for the upcoming year.

The dragon dance is an important part of Chinese culture. The dance is performed to chase away evil and welcome prosperity.

The event also includes K-pop performances and Korean drumming.

"We want to make it a more multicultural event, so we usually invite different ethnic groups each year including Cuban, Indian, Ukrainian, Russian," Ng said.

Year of the Rabbit

The Chinese zodiac is made up of a repeating 12-year cycle. Each year is represented by the 12 animals: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

The repeating 12-year cycles also combine the five Chinese elements: earth, metal, water, wood, and fire, and yin-yang energy.

This year, the celebration is welcoming the water rabbit (yin), for joy and peace.

The water rabbit is making an appearance after 60 years.

Traditionally, of all the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac, the rabbit is known for being the most gentle and kind.

"Ladies usually won't tell people which year they were born in, because people can track their age," Fung said.

People born in 1975, 1987, 1999 and 2011 were born in the year of the rabbit.

The West Edmonton Mall event has a cash fee of $2 per person. Children under 10 and seniors 65 and older don't pay.