Chinese New Year parade starts early in 2010
The marshal of Vancouver’s 36th annual Chinese New Year parade, Jun Ing, has a lot on his mind these days. He must be sure that more than 50 teams show up on time for the event, which takes place on Sunday (February 14) in Chinatown and is expected to attract tens of thousands of people. Ing also has to oversee traffic and crowd management, and take steps to ensure that nobody gets injured by firecrackers. In addition, organizers will have to hang approximately 500 red lanterns along the route.
“We’re responding to the call to paint the town red,” Ing said in a phone interview with the Georgia Straight. “Regardless of what people think about the Games, I think we should support our athletes.”
The parade to usher in the Year of the Tiger coincides with the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and an annual march for missing women, which takes place every February 14 in the Downtown Eastside. According to Vision Vancouver councillor Kerry Jang, there was an early discussion about cancelling the parade, but the city worked out a compromise to enable both marches to proceed on the same day. As a result, the Chinese New Year parade will begin and end earlier this year than it has in the past.
Ing, a lion dancer in the parade in the 1980s, said that organizers must have the streets cleared by 11 a.m., which means the event will start at 9:30 a.m. this year. Normally, it begins near the Chinatown Millennium Gate on West Pender Street, but this year the starting line is at the corner of Columbia and Pender streets. From there, it will cross Main Street and turn right on Gore Avenue. Then it’s right on Keefer Street. The teams will walk toward the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, where there will be a cultural fair in the courtyard from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“The memorial square is the end,” Ing said, referring to the plaza across the street from a large parkade in Chinatown. “We want to use Columbia as the dispersing area.”
Chinatown and nearby Strathcona were the heart of Vancouver’s Chinese community for generations. But according to Statistics Canada (see sidebar), there has been a tremendous growth over the past two decades in the number of people of Chinese descent in the suburbs. This year, the City of Richmond is planning a Chinese New Year celebration at the Richmond O Zone, beginning at noon on Sunday (February 14), with a lion dance at 8 p.m. It’s being billed as the biggest celebration “this side of Beijing”.
Andy Yan, an urban planner and researcher with Bing Thom Architects, has been tracking the dispersal of the Chinese-Canadian population for many years. In an interview with the Straight, he said that part of this is driven by concerns over affordability of housing, which is less expensive in the suburbs. In addition, he said new immigrants tend to concentrate in areas where they can find employment within their own communities. He said this explains the phenomenon of “restaurant row” with its “amazing collection of cuisine from around China” along No. 3 Road in Richmond.
Yan added that in Burnaby, there has been a large increase in the number of people of Chinese descent around Metrotown. He claimed that the nearby Crystal Mall has one of the best Chinese food fairs north of the Fraser River, noting it includes cuisine from Shanghai and northern China.
“Back in ’86, we were talking predominantly about a Hong Kong population,” Yan said. “Now, it’s from all over the place. That has led to a tremendous amount of diversity in the Chinese community.”
Yan said a reflection of this occurred about three years ago when the Chinese-language 8 p.m. newscast on Omni TV switched from Cantonese to Mandarin. The Cantonese newscast was bumped back to 9 p.m., even though Cantonese was the dominant Chinese dialect in Vancouver for more than a century. “That reflects a sea change,” he said.
How are you planning to celebrate the start of the Year of the Tiger?
“I grew up very superstitious and we followed all the rituals that go along with Chinese New Year, like not washing your hair or sweeping the house the day before, but I don’t follow them anymore. It’s funny, though, because I still feel a sense of guilt for doing some of the things I grew up being told was bad luck, like something bad will happen.”
“I’m looking forward to being with family and eating the particular dishes we serve this time of year. I think it’s nice to partake in the rituals that food represents, not because of the superstitions associated with them but because it gives what you’re eating real meaning. For me, these rituals are associated with the happy times and the fond memories that are created.”
“We usually have a big meal on Lunar New Year’s Eve with friends and family. And a large part of that lately has been because my daughters are adopted from China, so it’s part of the traditions that we have in our family. We are a little superstitious around things like not washing our hair on New Year’s Day because it then washes away your luck or good fortune.”
“We’ll be going to the parade this year, and with the Olympics coinciding with it I’m looking forward to seeing how it will turn out. It will be interesting to see the mascots walking amongst the tigers and lions. I think it will be Chinese New Year with a twist this year. It’ll be fun seeing my 16-month-old running around in his traditional tiger shoes and hat.”