New Chinese cultural and culinary festivals launch to illuminate Vancouver's Chinatown

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      Although summer festivities may be coming to an end, a combination of new and traditional cultural events are set to invigorate not only the transition into the autumn season but also a historic neighbourhood in Vancouver.

      There are two new Chinese festivals, both based in Vancouver’s Chinatown, that will provide an array of arts and entertainment, education, culinary explorations, and more.  

      Considering that during the early phase of the pandemic, Vancouver’s Chinatown was one of the main targets during a surge in anti-Asian attacks, coupled with financial challenges created by restrictions, these new celebratory occasions will help to revitalize interest in the neighbourhood, offer opportunities for cross-cultural appreciation, and affirm Asian Canadian presence in the city—all of which can provide hope and a sense of renewal as we continue to emerge from the darkness of the past year.

      Here’s an overview of what’s on offer.

      Vancouver Chinatown Foundation

      Illuminating Chinatown

      Prior to the annual Mid-Autumn Festival (see below), a new celebration is set to illuminate a historic neighbourhood in Vancouver.

      The first-ever Light Up Chinatown!, cohosted by the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation and the Vancouver Chinatown Business Improvement Area Society, will be held this weekend (September 11 and 12) featuring a lineup of musical performances, food events, entertainment, visual displays, and more that span beyond Chinese culture.

      The two-day celebration kicks off with an opening ceremony at 11 a.m. on Saturday (September 11), featuring a lion dance and a performance by Goh Ballet.

      A main stage at the intersection of Columbia and Keefer streets will offer performances by singer Marie Hui, hip-hop dancers Now or Never Crew, DJs Niña Mendoza and Kubanito, children’s taiko group Chibi Taiko, the Bonnie Northgraves Quartet, the Madison Reunion Band, and maestro Kenneth Hsieh with violinist Ken Lin.

      eaucoup Bakery x Chinatown BBQ's Peking duck croissants
      Rich Won

      A number of cross-cultural collaborations will be featured in food offerings, such as:

      • Peking duck croissants from Beaucoup Bakery and Chinatown BBQ;
      • all-day dim sum and cocktails from Kam Wai Dim Sum with the Keefer Yard;
      • DD Mau’s Saigon Saturday Cocktail and a Sunday brunch.

      The food component is already shaping up to be a runaway hit as two culinary events—a multi-course Cantonese dinner paired with organic wines by Jade Dynasty with Juice Bar, and a Sunday brunch from Bao Bei, Kissa Tanto, and Nancy Go Yaya—have already sold out.

      Chinese Restaurant Awards

      In conjunction with this festival, the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation’s second Taste of Chinatown is also being presented.

      It’s a self-guided culinary tour of Chinatown, which covers over 25 recommended eateries in the area as chosen by the Chinese Restaurant Awards Critics’ Choice.

      Full details are available at the Light Up Chinatown website.  

      insjoy/Getty Images

      Mooncakes and more

      This year, the traditional Mid-Autumn Festival, which is also known as the Mooncake Festival, will be held on September 21.

      Those who want to learn more about this annual celebration of the moon as well as the Cantonese language can attend a two-part online event from the Vancouver Public Library.

      The first session, from 6 to 7 p.m. on September 15, will provide casual Cantonese language lessons for beginners, presented by Justin Cheng, an honorary assistant curator of the history museum at Queen’s College in Hong Kong.  

      Then on September 22, Wongs’ Benevolent Association vice-president Jeffrey Wong will teach participants how to make a traditional pomelo lantern, which is akin to a jack o’lantern.

      This second session is being presented during the new Fire Dragon Festival (see below).

      For more information, visit the VPL website

      Fire Dragon Festival

      Fire dragons and noodles

      Following all of these events will be another new festival.

      The inaugural Fire Dragon Festival and Noodlelicious Festival will celebrate the Fire Dragon from September 24 to 26 during the Mid-Autumn Festival.

      This new festival draws upon a Hakka tradition originating in Hong Kong from over a century ago that involves creating a dragon out of straw and incense and dancing for several days in order to banish misfortunes.

      In addition to fire dragon dance workshops, a fire dragon demonstration, and art installations, the festival will include mid-autumn elements, such as lantern making, mooncake demonstrations, and moon gazing.

      There’ll also be Chinese opera, storytelling, mahjong, and more.

      Meanwhile, the Noodlelicious Festival will showcase Chinese noodles at participating restaurants throughout Chinatown.

      It’s all being presented by the City of Vancouver’s Chinatown Legacy Stewardship Group’s Culture and Heritage working group, along with the Vancouver Chinatown BIA Society, the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, the Chinese Cultural Centre, and the Chinatown Society Heritage Building Association.

      Further information is available at the festival website.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.