Bye Bye 2016

To celebrate the arrival of 2017, my friends and I checked out the free festivities at the Old Port. I’ve spent many New Year’s Eves on a sofa with the remote control watching the ball drop in Times Square and fireworks around the world. This time, I decided it would be a good start to the New Year to get off the sofa, put on the long underwear, and brave the cold and the crowds.  Continue reading

Lion Heads waiting to welcome 2014

Enter the Lions – Welcoming the New Year Chinese Style

The pounding beat of a drum, the clash of cymbals and the sound of firecrackers rang through Montreal’s Chinatown Sunday afternoon to scare away evil demons. The lions had arrived to celebrate the New Year. The lions are members of The Montreal Chinese Lions Dance Club, a martial arts and lions dance club. Dressed in colourful, shimmering costumes, they visit stores, restaurants and tong associations in Chinatown to wish them luck and prosperity in the New Year.

Thank goodness the deep, freezing cold temperatures broke this weekend. It was a balmy -1 Celsius. The snow was turning to slush. A small cloud of smoke billowed as firecrackers exploded in Sun Yat-Sen Square. The lions bowed and pranced in front of guests of honour, each of whom dangled a head of lettuce and a red envelope from a pole.  According to tradition, the lion eats the lettuce and the envelope. Then, it tosses the pieces of lettuce in the air to wish the person and the establishment prosperity in the coming year.

The crowd followed the lions up Clark Street to their first stop. Someone on the second floor dangled a head of lettuce and a red envelope from a pole high over the sidewalk. The lions leaped and danced and successfully grabbed both items.

Le Cristal was packed with customers having dim sum when the lions made their entrance into the restaurant located on the sixth floor. Cameras and cell phones snapped photos as the lions wound their way around the tables and headed towards the far end. The owners hung the lettuce and red envelope from the ceiling which was more of a challenge since it was so high. Customers cheered as the lions made several attempts and then burst into applause when they succeeded.

For the next three hours, the lions made their way into shopping centers and stores. They stopped at doorways marked by a head of lettuce and a red envelope hanging from the top, or where someone waited with a pole. The crowd grew as the small parade made its way along La Gauchetière Street, chasing away evil spirits to ensure the community a happy and prosperous new year.

Celebrating Chinese New Year

It’s great that people celebrate Chinese New Year, no matter what their nationality. With that in mind, I am re-posting below, with the author’s permission, a wonderful blog from YummyMummyClub.ca about one woman’s reasons for celebrating Chinese New Year.

Check out YummyMummyClub.ca for food and decor ideas for your Chinese New Year celebration. 

Why I Celebrate Chinese New Year

It started with egg rolls when I was a kid

by: Evelyn Hannon

I am a Jewish woman living in Canada, and I am Caucasian. So, why in the world do I celebrate Chinese New Year?

Well, the simple answer is—I love all things Chinese. This affection didn’t develop overnight, nor did it develop lightly. My love grew from small likes to happy memories to intense experiences and gradually blossomed into full-bodied, full-blown LOVE.

To begin, when I was a kid in Montreal, Lee’s Garden on Park Avenue served the Canadian Chinese food my family and I ate on special treat nights. I actually grew up believing that all kids in China snacked daily on garlic spare ribs and countless egg rolls dipped in sweet plum sauce. Oh, how I envied them and their supposed diet. I loved that food.

During high school, my friends and I popped into that same restaurant walking home after school. Twenty-five cents bought us a Chow Mein Sandwich—a hamburger bun filled with steamed bean sprouts covered in a mysterious pale brown sauce. Lee’s was our teenage hangout with lots of young love and flirting going on. I remember eating that snack as slowly as possible so we could stay as long as possible. Such sweet memories!

My interest in Chinese culture blossomed much later, in my thirties. This time, it wasn’t associated with plum sauce or young love. It was Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that intrigued me. Acupuncture, Qi Gong, massage, the use of herbs—these were medical practices thousands of years old, and in Canada, doctors were not yet embracing these ideas. But I read everything I could get my hands on. In 1989, I applied for a research grant to go to China to study the ways in which Chinese women were treating patients with TCM. It was a lark. I never expected anything to come of it. However, I did hope.

Oh my goodness! Imagine my surprise when I received a note on government letterhead awarding me $17,000 to go to Beijing and investigate my interest. That money took me to Asia for a month—my first time in Beijing, a city of what seemed like a gazillion people on bicycles. I was considered a “visiting dignitary,” and assigned a limo driver and translator who accompanied me everywhere I needed to go. There were also two local mentors tasked with watching over me during my visit. The first, a wonderful woman who was the Head of Beijing’s School for Traditional Chinese Medicine, and the second, her mother (in her eighties) who was the Honorary Chair of the Chinese Red Cross. I remember sitting on a couch in the elder woman’s tiny apartment, holding her hand, and (via my interpreter) telling her that even though we couldn’t speak directly, I could feel her words in my heart. Sappy, perhaps, but I had fallen totally “in like” with the people, their kindness, and their wonderful sense of humour. And even though I didn’t understand the words, I loved the sounds and the rhythm of the Chinese language. By the time I headed home, I was really hooked.

Fast forward to 2001. My younger daughter lets me in on a very big secret. She is adopting a baby girl from China. And would I travel to China with her to receive the newest member of our family? Of course I answered with a resounding, YES. Two months later, in a hotel room in Xi’An, we sat on chairs facing twelve orphanage nannies holding twelve crying baby girls.

My daughter’s name was called. She walked to the center of the room. Lotus, Xiao Ai her given daughter was placed in her arms. After three years of waiting, a dream fulfilled and one more very delicious family member for me to love.

Seven years later, Lotus and I skyped with her mom and dad who are in China, this time to receive Bexie, Fu Li the second little member of the Chinese contingent in our family.

You can imagine the excitement when the plane from China touched down in Toronto and the whole family got to meet this new, sweet little Chinese darling face to face.

And so now, in our mixed Jewish, Christian, and Chinese family, we get to celebrate all the major holidays. In November it was potato latkes for Chanukah, in December, Christmas dinner, and today, we are looking forward to Chinese New Year at the end of January. There will be a wonderful dim sum meal in Chinatown, cheering when the menacing dancing dragon comes into the restaurant and, of course, I’ll be joining all the other parents and grandparents of Chinese children handing out the traditional gifts of money tucked into Chinese red envelopes. Gung Hai Fat Choy—Happy Year of the Horse everybody!