Chinese New Year—the Lunar New Year based on the Chinese calendar—isn't just a customary festival for the people of China. It's also the traditional New Year mark for Korean, Vietnamese, and many other East Asian cultures, so for multicultural Vancouver—which had residents from China even before the city incorporated in 1886—the New Year is a huge celebration, and events extend into nearby areas in British Columbia, like the city of Richmond. The Chinese New Year kicks off on January 25 in 2020 and honors the Year of the Rat. In Chinese culture, the animal symbolizes wealth, contentment, change, and creative projects. Expect festivities galore in this Canadian city, such as lion dances, a huge parade, street fairs in Chinatown, and multicultural performances at the Vancouver Chinatown Spring Festival & Cultural Fair.
Every year, Vancouver's Chinese New Year events culminate in a full day of celebrations in the heart of historic Chinatown, starting with the annual Vancouver Chinese New Year Parade. Since 1979, the Chinese Benevolent Association of Vancouver has put on the parade. In 2020, it will take place at 11 a.m. on January 26 and is a 0.81 mile (1.3 kilometer) long route. The free event has become highly popular in Vancouver, attracting over 3,000 performers, dancers, and musicians—including the largest assembly of lion dance teams in Canada—and more than 100,000 spectators.
For the best birds-eye views of the parade, go to the building on Keefer Street by Columbia that has a giant red-and-yellow Chinatown sign on it.
Vancouver Chinatown Spring Festival & Cultural Fair
Free festivities take place at the Vancouver Chinatown Spring Festival & Cultural Fair at the Sun Yat-sen Plaza (50 East Pender Street) from 2–4 p.m. on January 25–26, 2020. Expect martial arts demonstrations, multicultural performances, a lion dance grand finale, and beyond.
Chinese New Year Banquet
On January 26, 2020, at 6:30 p.m., a special annual Chinese New Year Banquet returns to Floata Seafood Restaurant, the biggest Chinese restaurant in Canada, which opened after the company's several restaurants in Hong Kong and China. Located in the heart of Chinatown in the small Chinatown Plaza shopping mall, Floata's festivities will feature a Chinese variety show with singing and cultural dances, live entertainment, lion dances, greetings by the Fortune God, and more.
Contact The Chinese Benevolent Association of Vancouver to purchase tickets in advance.
Chinese New Year at the International Village
One of the largest Chinese New Year events in Vancouver is held at Chinatown's International Village shopping center (better known locally as Tinseltown), located at 88 West Pender Street, next to Rogers Arena.
More than 100,000 visitors head to the International Village for three free days of festivities. In 2020, the event will take place on January 24–26, and will include a ceremonial opening and lion dance with government officials in attendance, multicultural live performances, traditional dance, and kids' activities. The main and upper levels will feature booths with festive New Year items, home decor, gifts, and food. Also, check out the Children's Art Festival on the upper level to see paintings by young artists from varying cultural backgrounds.
If you want to explore more while you are there, the shopping center is also home to over 60 stores, a food court, restaurants, and a movie theater.
Year of the Rat Temple Fair
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden—a peaceful retreat in urban Chinatown which was named one of the World’s Top City Gardens by National Geographic—is one of the main places in Vancouver to honor the Chinese New Year.
On January 26, 2020, the site holds the family-friendly Year of the Rat Temple Fair from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., in honor of the rat. Enjoy the annual celebration which will offer live music, traditional crafts and activities, a calligraphy contest, tea tastings, and more.
The event has a suggested donation of $5 and is open to the public.
Enjoy New Year's in Richmond
Richmond, also in British Columbia, and just an approximately 30-minute drive south from Vancouver, offers plenty of fun ways to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Visitors and locals will find red and gold decorations, stunning flowers, and traditional lion and dragon dance performances.
Built in traditional Chinese imperial design in the early 1980s, the award-winning International Buddhist Temple, one of the largest and most authentic temples in North America, welcomes everyone to The Great Compassion Repentance Ceremony in Gracious Hall from 9 to 11 a.m. on January 25, 2020, the first day of the lunar month. The event includes a free vegetarian lunch at 11:00 a.m.
Local Chinese restaurants serve 10-12 courses in one fancy feast and are a popular place to be, so make your reservations in advance.