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A lion dance to celebrate Chinese New Year in Victoria, B.C.

Step aside, lovebirds - Valentine's Day isn't the only reason to celebrate on Feb. 14. This most auspicious date marks the beginning of the Year of the Tiger on the lunar calendar, and it kicks off two weeks of festivities. To get ready, 1.3 million Chinese Canadians will clean house, settle their debts and fill small red envelopes with "lucky money" to give to children and unmarried relatives and friends. (Not a bad time to be a singleton.) Many will also hurry to celebrations like these. Gung hay fat choy

VANCOUVER
The city's Chinese New Year Parade has been running since 1974, drawing as many as 50,000 spectators, and organizers aren't going to let a little thing like the Olympics deter them (although they did agree to an earlier start time and a revised route). The highlight? Dozens of lion-dance teams will strut their stuff and collect lucky money from local merchants, a tradition that is said to ward off evil spirits. Feb. 14, 9:30 a.m.; parade starts at Millennium Gate; route at cbavancouver.ca.

After the parade, find your way to LunarFest, where a lantern forest glitters with 2,010 lanterns created by kids, totem lanterns inspired by Canadian and Taiwanese indigenous designs, and the animals of the Chinese zodiac. Make your own lantern at DIY workshops on Feb. 13 and 14 (from noon to 6 p.m.) and join a procession through the forest at 7:15 p.m. on both nights ( until Feb. 28; Granville Street between Robson and Georgia; lunarfest.org).

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Get your culture fix at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, which will sparkle with 500 red and gold lanterns. Enjoy live music (including the Vancouver Cantonese Opera), fortune telling, games and crafts. Kids can have their faces painted and take home a balloon tiger. Feb. 14, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; 578 Carrall St.; vancouverchinesegarden.com.

RICHMOND, B.C.
Locals flock to Aberdeen Centre for its free New Year's festivities. Don't miss the kick-off performance, which features a golden dragon and eight lucky lions carousing to fierce Chinese drums. An orchestra of the B.C. Chinese Music Association takes the stage at 1:30 p.m., followed by a dance troupe at 3 p.m. The centre wraps up the 15-day New Year's celebrations with more performances on Feb. 27 and 28. Kickoff: Feb. 14, 11 a.m., 4151 Hazelbridge Way; aberdeencentre.com.

VICTORIA
The beautiful Gates of Harmonious Interest, which flank the entranceway to Canada's oldest Chinatown, mark the starting point of a dazzling lion dance. Feb. 21, noon; Fisgard St. at Government.

The lunar new year coincides with the 4th annual Victoria Tea Festival.Learn about the history of this beloved beverage and watch a Chinese tea ceremony (Feb. 13, 2 p.m.), then pick up all the accoutrements to try it at home. Feb. 13, noon to 5 p.m.; Feb. 14, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Crystal Garden, 713 Douglas St.; victoriateafestival.com. $20 advance, $25 at the door.

To find out the names of all that spiky fruit, sign up for Chef Heidi Fink's culinary tour of Chinatown. She also appears at the tea festival, demonstrating how to cook with - what else? - tea. Tours: Sundays, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.; chefheidifink.com. $50.

TORONTO
Toronto is home to Canada's largest Chinese population, and you can bet they'll paint the town red - the colour symbolizes good luck. Downtown's Chinatown celebrates on Feb. 14 with a brief ceremony at 12:30 p.m. in the lobby of the Dragon City Mall at Dundas Street and Spadina Avenue, followed by a lion dance outside - for which they're closing the intersection.

The Royal Ontario Museum's Chinese New Year extravaganza offers an eye-popping roster of music, dance and martial arts performances. Get crafty with hands-on activities, such as paper cutting, calligraphy, brush painting and even firecracker making. While you're there, check out the ROM's renowned Chinese art collection. Feb. 7, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; 100 Queen's Park; rom.on.ca. Free with admission.)

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The Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Toronto is hosting a free festival on Ontario's Family Day featuring a lion dance, Chinese dance and martial arts. Feb. 15, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; 5183 Sheppard Ave. E.; cccgt.org. You can also nosh on exquisite dishes at the centre's Chinese New Year dinner Feb. 19; $50; order tickets in advance.

Don't forget Chinese shopping centres such as Pacific Mall and Market Village, which offer New Year's countdowns, lion dances, variety shows and sidewalk sales that rival the length of the Great Wall. Pacific Mall, 4300 Steeles Ave. E.; pacificmalltoronto.com. Market Village, 4390 Steeles Ave. E.; marketvillage.net.

MONTREAL
The Montreal Chinese Cultural Community Centre is putting on a show, Soaring Dragon and Leaping Tiger, featuring performing artists from mainland China and the United States. Feb. 13 and 14, 7 p.m. Pierre Péladeau Centre, 300 Maisonneuve Blvd. E.; ccccmontreal.com. $20 to $50.

CALGARY
The Calgary Chinese Cultural Centre, housed in a building modelled after Beijing's Temple of Heaven, is holding a New Year's carnival. Catch the Golden Dragon and Lion Dance on Feb. 14 at noon, watch a calligraphy demonstration, taste special New Year's treats and try your luck at games of chance . Feb. 12 to 15; 197 First St. SW; culturalcentre.ca.

EDMONTON
Head to the West Edmonton Mall this weekend to catch the Chinese performers and marketplace, presented by the Edmonton Chinatown Multi-Cultural Centre. Today and tomorrow, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. 1755, 8882 170th St. wem.ca.

Next weekend, enjoy the Year of the Tiger opening ceremony, complete with lion dance, dragon dance and firecrackers, outside the Pacific Rim Mall. Feb. 14, noon 118-9700 105th Ave. N.W.

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On Alberta's Family Day, the University of Alberta's China Institute will throw a free party at Enterprise Square, with lion dances, firecrackers, lucky draws and fun stuff for the kids. Feb. 15, Noon to 4 p.m. 10230 Jasper Ave. china.ualberta.ca

You can also bring in the new year at Century Casino. Singer Lala Gao, winner of Asian Idol 2008, appears at the casino's New Year's concert. Feb. 19; $48.88; tickets available at customer service desk. Runs until Feb. 20. 13103 Fort Rd.; cnty.com/casinos/edmonton.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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