St. John's rings in Year of the Rabbit with colourful event at Farmers' Market

The Lion Dance performance ushered in public Lunar New Year celebrations for the first time since the pandemic began.  (William Ping/CBC - image credit)
The Lion Dance performance ushered in public Lunar New Year celebrations for the first time since the pandemic began. (William Ping/CBC - image credit)
William Ping/CBC
William Ping/CBC

For the first time in three years, the Lunar New Year was rung in with a public event in St. John's.

The celebration at the St. John's Farmers' Market on Sunday saw a number of cultural performances and activities, including a lion dance performance and calligraphy demonstrations, as well as an array of traditional foods from Loong Wah Restaurant.

"It's a great showcase of the community talent that we have here and it's a great opportunity to bring everyone together," said Tzu-Hao Hsu, former president of the Chinese Association of Newfoundland and Labrador and an organizer of the event.

William Ping/CBC
William Ping/CBC

Before the pandemic, the association's annual Lunar New Year event was traditionally a banquet dinner. The COVID-19 pandemic forced that tradition to a halt in recent years, but also allowed organizers to rethink the event.

Hsu said they chose the Farmers' Market as the venue this year to make the event more accessible, both for the Asian community and the St. John's area at large. She said that decision helped the event have a much larger attendance than normal.

"We've managed to attract some folks that haven't celebrated with us in the past. So we have some new faces in the crowd, and the community members, and we're just very excited to see everyone."

William Ping/CBC
William Ping/CBC

Hsu said the event made her a little bit emotional.

"Lunar New Year is one of my favourite holidays and I've always associated it with a very lively event," she said.

"And it's been a couple years since I've been able to do this. So, looking out at the crowd as the MC of this event today, it's phenomenal to see all the smiling faces, enjoying themselves and knowing that we've pulled off a successful event that brought this celebration back to community."

Emma Cole attended the event annually before the pandemic and agreed that it was exciting for the celebrations to return.

"Everyone is so happy to be here. It's really nice to see everyone, especially with how brutal COVID has been these past few years. But, now we're all just having a good time."

William Ping/CBC
William Ping/CBC

The Lunar New Year foods from Loong Wah restaurant also proved to be a big draw for newcomers to the event.

"Honestly, I'm just here for the food," said Ryan Rumbolt, who had never attended the association's events before.

"There's some good looking Chinese food here."

Malatang, a spicy soup, was on the top of Rumbolt's to-eat list.

Hsu said over 250 people attended the event.

"We're just so thrilled and so grateful for all the support we've gotten today," she said.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador