How to celebrate Chinese New Year in Ottawa

“Gong hey fat choy!”

Loosely translated, this Chinese phrase means “Congratulations” and “Best wishes” for a prosperous new year.

Although 2016 has already started, the year of the monkey, the Lunar New Year, began on February 8 based on the Chinese calendar.

Sharing oranges for good luck, dumplings and lettuce for wealth, and traditional red envelopes known as ‘hong bao’ can be done anywhere in the world. But if you want to celebrate the holiday in Ottawa, look no further than Somerset Street

edited3“The food is different, the culture is different,” says Grace Xin, Executive Director of the Chinatown BIA. “I think it’s more than just a community, it’s a hub for tourists to experience multiculturalism in Canada.”

Xin is one of the organizers of events in the area, which includes The Lunar New Year Lion Dance Parade.

“We try to build smaller but recurring events to attract people to come regularly,” says Xin. This year the parade will take place on February 14 from 1-2:30 p.m. The titular lion dance features two dancers who operate a traditional lion suit and mimic the animals’ movements.

Even though Chinese New Year has a set date, the holiday is celebrated for multiple weeks and decorations have been up in Chinatown’s businesses since January. One place that is particularly festive is the Kowloon Supermarket.

“It’s crazy, so busy,” says Duke Chen, an engineering student at Carleton University and cashier at Kowloon. Chen works in the bakery section of the market and says one of the hottest selling items are the sesame seed cookies, which symbolize happiness and laughter.

In Ottawa, Chinese New Year is a time of joy, good fortune and celebration that’s open to everyone, especially a young college student away from home.

“I’m an international student so my family isn’t here,” says Chen. “I’m just going to celebrate with friends.”