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Lunar New Year parade returns to Vancouver Chinatown following pandemic hiatus

Dragon dances are set to be part of the Vancouver Chinatown Spring Festival Parade scheduled on Jan. 22, 2023, the first in-person version of the event after a two-year pandemic hiatus. (The Canadian Press - image credit)
Dragon dances are set to be part of the Vancouver Chinatown Spring Festival Parade scheduled on Jan. 22, 2023, the first in-person version of the event after a two-year pandemic hiatus. (The Canadian Press - image credit)

The annual Vancouver Chinatown Spring Festival Parade will be back as an in-person event on Lunar New Year Day, according to organizers.

The celebration will be held on Sunday, Jan. 22 at 11 a.m., featuring ensembles of lion and dragon dancers and other cultural performers from the Millennium Gate on Pender Street to the junction of Keefer and Abbott Streets.

The parade is one of many in-person public events returning to Vancouver and other parts of B.C., after a hiatus due to COVID-19 restrictions on large gatherings. It was organized as a virtual event streaming on YouTube over the past two years.

Frank Huang, vice president of co-organizer Chinese Benevolent Association of Vancouver, says he hopes the event could help bring more people back to Chinatown in 2023, which is known as the Year of the Rabbit for Chinese-speaking communities.

Huang says rabbits symbolize patience and kindness, qualities he hopes people can show to each other again, after two years of a pandemic marked by multiple racist incidents against Asians.

"We hope this year can bring us luck and fortune," he said. "We hope everything [will be] back to normal."

Mayor Ken Sim plans to attend

Organizers say the parade will be followed by more cultural performances at the David Lam Hall of the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Vancouver on Pender Street, and a gala dinner at Floata Seafood Restaurant on Keefer Street.

Huang says this first in-person Lunar New Year celebration coincides with the first term of Ken Sim, elected last October as Vancouver's first mayor of Chinese descent.

He says he hopes Sim could bring a positive impact on Vancouver Chinatown.

"We hope the new mayor will keep his promise to keep Chinatown safer," Huang said. "We want to bring back prosperity to Chinatown."

The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press

In an emailed statement to CBC News, Sim confirms he plans to attend the parade.

"The Chinatown Spring Festival is a wonderful showcase of Vancouver's diversity and cultural heritage. It's incredibly exciting to see the community be able to come together and celebrate once again," Sim said in the written statement.

Queenie Choo, CEO of the Vancouver-based immigrant and refugee services agency S.U.C.C.E.S.S., says her organization is glad to have been co-organizing the Chinatown Spring Festival Parade since its inauguration in 1974.

Choo says many Chinese Canadians like herself feel a bit of apprehension as the pandemic isn't over yet, but they are still excited about meeting each other in-person during the parade.

"Anybody who is sick should stay home, and for those people who are healthy, we should definitely encourage people to come in-person and join the parade," she said.