LunarFest GTA aims to bring community together to celebrate Chinese New Year like no other

·3 min read

The spring festival is the most important day of the year for all Chinese; however, the Year of the Ox is destined to be out of the ordinary due to COVID-19 and Ontario’s stay-at-home order.

The Zhang family from Markham hasn't seen their parents for a long time, and their newborn child never even met the grandparents.

In previous years, the young couple would either return to China to reunite with family or have their parents come to Canada.

“I miss them very much, especially (when) the Chinese New Year is approaching, and I feel lonely,” Jessie said.

This year, due to the complexity of the pandemic and quarantine policy, Zhang and his wife were left alone to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

LunarFest GTA, organized by the Taiwanese Canadian Association of Toronto, understands the homesickness felt by many Chinese Canadians. The association had prepared lots of entertainment programs for the New Year celebration, but unfortunately, many of them were either cancelled or switched to an online form.

“As we celebrate the Year of the Ox in the ever-lingering pandemic, family definitely has a different meaning for this Lunar New Year,” said Michael Lin, community liaison of LunarFest GTA.

LunarFest hopes to bring a series of virtual programming with hopes to ring in an auspicious year for all people.

Storytelling and music always play an important part of Lunar New Year tradition, and LunarFest will offer various formats designed to help families celebrate at home. Their online gallery of family portraits will provide some visual fulfilment for those who crave to see new and interesting works.

Another artistic interpretation of the family theme for 2021 LunarFest is “The Lunar Lanterns of Indigenous Lights.”

Originally planned as a physical art installation of six lanterns at the Varley Art Gallery Courtyard in Markham, the artworks and stories, presented by four Indigenous artists, were taken virtually after public health's safety orders.

“But their works and stories are still inspiring and connect us back to our roots and nature, the bond we have with mother earth,” Lin said. The online programming will be available on starting on Feb 11.

Meanwhile, the organization is working with one of their partners, Metro Square in Markham, to distribute the Ox-Picious hand-held lanterns. More information can be found on their website and social platform.

Also forced online is the Spring Festival couplets making party organized by Support Enhance Access Service (SEAS) Centre to celebrate the New Year.

This workshop would have been facilitated by a worker from SEAS Centre with volunteers. “We planned to hold this event at Aaniin Community Centre in Markham, but in order to comply with public health safety requirements, we have turned it into a virtual calligraphy tutorial,” said Shan He, community services worker from SEAS.

Calligraphy is an important part and essence of traditional Chinese culture; it is the artistic form of Chinese writing characters. Chinese painting and calligraphy are almost always mentioned in the same breath.

Many Chinese parents are eager to cultivate their children born overseas to love Chinese culture, so lots of families, not only in Markham but also in York Region, were looking forward to this event.

“Although the event changed to an online format, we have invited Peter Ly, calligraphy teacher, to demonstrate and teach children to write the word of FU, which means blessing in Chinese,” He said. Full video is available on YouTube.

COVID-19 has completely changed the way people get along and communicate, and even the New Year cannot be celebrated together.

During the pandemic, SEAS encourages everyone to share their knowledge, skills and experience with others to enhance community vitality.

SEAS is committed to helping residents establish a balance between the use of technological systems and traditional lifestyles to complete their work and enjoy life in a healthier and more productive way.

Scarlett Liu, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Economist & Sun