Lunar New Year, away from home

Celebrating the new year in Canada can be lonely, but there are spots where you can almost feel that festive atmosphere

Lunar New Year is celebrated in many Asian countries such as China, Korea, Vietnam and Japan, to name a few. How people from those countries celebrate the new year, be it the solar or lunar one, while living in Canada is a different story.

Unless you were born in Canada, or have lived here for most of your life, it’s often difficult to feel like home in a different place.

“Because we’re not from here, we’re not Canadian, we don’t know how to celebrate the (regular new year),” said Katherine Zhao, a second-year student in business marketing at George Brown College (GBC.)

Then again, it could be even more difficult to celebrate a festival that’s deep with so many countries traditions like the Lunar New Year, in another country that doesn’t celebrate this event like home.

“Even if you want to celebrate, you don’t even want to celebrate,” said Ha Bao Ngoc Nguyen, a first-year student in business administration, supply chain management. “Because there’s no atmosphere. Who’s going to celebrate with you? There’s nobody here that’s really celebrating Lunar New Year.”

For Nguyen, the primary reason the Lunar New Year can fall flat away from home is because there’s no immediate family to celebrate with.

“Like with friends, we can talk, but I want my real family, I want my parents, I want my sister,” said Nguyen. “And here nobody’s going to give you lucky money. That’s the most important part!”

While feeling that festivities in Toronto are not up to par with back home, there are the options of visiting communities like Chinatown or Koreatown. Although it’s not the same as celebrating with family, with a festive atmosphere in stores and red decorations these neighbourhoods have more of a community feel.

“I would say if you go to specific places like Chinatown or somewhere like Asian neighborhoods, you can feel (the festive atmosphere) there,” said Mandy Diep, a third-year student in business administration, accounting.

The Chinatown Business Improvement Area is having a new year celebration on Feb. 17 and 18 at the Dragon City Mall (280 Spadina Ave.) with a lion dance, kung fu displays and activity booths. But there are also Lunar New Year events happening at college with the Student Association, which funds The Dialog, and the international centre teaming up for events at every campus.

For Ashley Sullivan, manager of international student integration and support at the college, the Lunar New Year events are opportunities for the GBC community to celebrate. But it’s also an opportunity for folks who haven’t experienced Lunar New Year to learn more about it.

“It’s both something for students to celebrate Lunar New Year with their friends and family, to educate other students on the celebration and really to show how diverse our community is here at GBC,” she said.

This year’s Lunar New Year celebration, which include free food as well as dragon dancing performances will be at Waterfront campus on Feb. 13, Casa Loma on Feb. 14 and St. James on Feb. 15.

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Lunar New Year, away from home