Growing up in Taiwan, Charlie Wu remembers Lunar New Year festivities as elaborate affairs, with 15 days of different activities and customs, symbolic foods and decorations, and the coveted red envelopes stuffed with money.
“It’s a holiday people look forward to all year, much like Christmas in North America, and it is often spent with family and friends,” explains Wu, now the managing director of the Asian-Canadian Special Events Association (ACSEA).
Yet even in his childhood, Wu noticed differences in how people from various backgrounds celebrated the occasion. “People from Taiwan and from different places in China would weave in their own customs,” he says. “In Canada, this approach allows us to invite a range of communities – even those who are not celebrating the same tradition – to join in.”
We feel that Vancouver can celebrate like no other. When we bring together our many traditions and cultures, we can show that Canada’s diversity is a powerful strength.— Charlie Wu managing director of the Asian-Canadian Special Events Association (ACSEA)
Commonalities and entry points are easy to spot, says Wu, who mentions three elements that can help participants embrace the Lunar New Year as their own: the lunar calendar, the moon and Chinese zodiac signs.
Among the people with traditions connected to the lunar cycle are the Anishinaabe First Nations, who have used the celebrations as a chance to educate the public about their 13-moons teachings, a lunar calendar that corresponds with the markings on the shell of a turtle, says Wu.
Among ACSEA’s key objectives are encouraging cultural exchange and fostering new expressions that reflect the unique and vibrant nature of Canada’s diverse population. The Coastal Lunar Lantern project, where four Indigenous artists create 10-foot cylindrical lanterns for display at Vancouver’s Jack Poole Plaza, is an example where the world is taking notice, says Wu. “We started this in 2019 and are now coming back with four new artists and different designs. Last year’s lanterns will now be in Taiwan as part of a lantern festival that saw an attendance of 13.4 million people in 2019.”
The success in achieving another goal – to provide a platform for learning and sharing – is evident in the many outreach requests ACSEA receives from local schools, which numbered over 3,000 this year, says Wu.
ACSEA has been curating and producing large events since 2004 and oversees signature celebrations like the TAIWANFEST and the upcoming LunarFest, which will be held in Vancouver and – in partnership with local organizers – in Mississauga and Markham, Ontario.
The festivities in Vancouver will include the Chinatown Parade; an installation at the Oakridge Centre, where four castles resembling pop-up books will draw attention to the new year’s traditions of the Chinese, Korean, Taiwanese and Vietnamese communities; a “Musical Banquet performed by the world-renowned Chai Found Music Workshop from Taiwan; and more,” says Wu.
“We feel that Vancouver can celebrate like no other. When we bring together our many traditions and cultures, we can show that Canada’s diversity is a powerful strength.”
Learn more at lunarfest.org.
Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.