Coming Together: The Year of the Rabbit brings Vancouver together in celebration

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      A group of rabbits is called a “fluffle,” apparently. 

      So what do you call a city celebrating the Year of the Rabbit together, in-person, for the first Lunar New Year in years? We’re not entirely sure, but you’ll be able to see it for yourself during LunarFest 2023. 

      As the first fully in-person celebration of Lunar New Year since the pandemic put an indefinite hold on mass gatherings back in 2020, organizers want LunarFest 2023 to be a celebration of togetherness, thinking towards the future, and imagining all the possibilities in store for the coming year. 

      As well as rabbits. A whole lot of rabbits. 

      “Coming together” is the core theme of the Together We Are! LunarFest concert, according to Nicholas Urquhart, the composer who heads the Harmonia Orchestra. 

      “The idea of celebrating together, and how that has been just so hard lately, it really does bring a new energy,” he told the Straight in a phone interview. 

      “It's more profound when we have experiences together; they actually last longer and are more meaningful to us.”

      He noted that the finale of the concert will see the orchestra, the choirs, the solo performers, and (he hopes) the audience all working together to create a memorable end to the performance. 

      “We’re hoping that that will be a really powerful, final moment to the concert where we are together, and we're also connected with the audience,” he said. He also mentioned that, given scheduling and rehearsal space constraints, the full group of performers will not actually have been able to practice together before that time comes. 

      “That should [make for] even more energy, when we notice things that we've never noticed before on stage with each other. And we're hoping the audience will take part in those songs.” 

      We suggest brushing up on the lyrics to John Lennon’s “Imagine” if you’re planning to attend the concert in person and hope to add your voice to the finale. 

      Jeni Chen, a visual artist who will be hosting a workshop on Granville Island during LunarFest, agreed that being together in-person adds to the overall experience of the festivities. 

      “I love in-person workshops because I get to share what I love with people and then I can see what they do with what I'm sharing,” she told the Straight over the phone. “I just see how creative people are, especially children. You tell them to do it this way but then they come up with new and different ideas … especially kids that are so creative like this, the energy is awesome.” 

      Chen will be running a spring couplets workshop, in which participants will create decorations out of Chinese symbols that have similar shapes. She used “luck” and “orange” as an example, as well as “future” and “rabbit,” which are familiar sounding words. 

      She will be incorporating calligraphy and paper cutting into the workshop, and expects to have many a rabbit leaving her table, in one form or another. 

      “We can cut [paper] rabbits, we can cut oranges, it’s pretty simple to do. I'm adding that element to the spring couplets and it also applies colours, because I love colours. I'm excited to see what people can come up with.”

      But no one in Vancouver knows how rabbits can multiply quite like Andrew Han, owner of The Kouign Café and creator of the iconic White Rabbit cookie. 

      Han told the Straight that he has been getting orders for the cookies numbering in the hundreds ahead of Lunar New Year celebrations. 

      “We're just cranking out our in-house White Rabbit cookies as well,” Han said, chuckling at how he only recently realized the uptick in business that Kouign Café is expected to see during the Lunar New Year parade. 

      “We’re looking forward to that, and preparing to have as many White Rabbits as we can.” 

      While he has taken a sizable order from Arc’teryx and plans to do an event with the Chinatown Storytelling Centre, the café unfortunately had to pass on other collaboration requests for Lunar New Year as a result of the surge in orders. 

      But even with the hundreds of cookies still to be made, Han said he’s glad to be able to provide a special something to those celebrating. 

      “White Rabbits are so nostalgic for me. They hold such a near and dear place in my heart with memories of grocery shopping with my mom, and her buying those candies for us. You also see those candies everywhere growing up, in schools, we would always have them at the house; it was just the kind of candy that you experienced together,” Han said. 

      “So it was a bonding, shared experience that is reflective of what Lunar New Year means for a lot of us, with the togetherness and family bonding and feasting together and celebrating the new year.”

      LunarFest 2023 kicks off on January 20 and runs until February 20. The Together We Are! concert will be held on January 24, and Jeni Chen’s Lucky Bunny Spring Couplets workshop will be held on February 4.