These dinners, candy boxes and live stream events will help you usher in the Year of the Tiger.

The Lunar New Year is a holiday centred around prosperity, good health and honouring family, celebrated in Asian communities all over the Greater Toronto Area. 

Red lanterns for celebrating Lunar New Year
There are different ways to celebrate Lunar New Year among Asian communities but a common thread you'll find is their use of red lanterns for decoration

It’s a celebration filled with get-togethers, large feasts, colourful decorations, traditional clothing and age-old customs. This year it kicks off on February 1, 2022, to bring in the Year of the Tiger. 

There are different ways to celebrate the Lunar New Year in Toronto so let’s dive into a few of the common traditions. It may look a little different this year but you can still celebrate at home or at your hotel while also supporting many of the local businesses in Toronto.

Lunar New Year dinners 

One of the best parts about Lunar New Year is the food. This comes in the form of various meals but the most important is a dinner feast with extended family that occurs on the eve of the new year.

Something quite traditional you’ll find with these dinners is that they are carefully curated to include dishes that have a symbolic meaning in either their ingredients or how they’re named.  Some can be literally named and in other cases, they could be a play on words. 

In Hong Shing’s Lunar New Year Set, you have dishes such as Prosperity Lobster and Golden Fried Rice.

Another great example is the Chinese New Year saying, 年年有余 (nian nian you yu) which translates into “may every year bring you surplus”.  The play on words is that 余 (surplus) sounds like 鱼 (fish) which is why every dinner will always have fish, such as in the Yeuh Tung Restaurant’s Lucky Lunar New Year Meal Set.

There are plenty of places where you can order your Lunar New Year dinner ahead of time for delivery or pick-up in addition to the two above. There are additional pre-order options from May Yan Seafood, Alma + Gil, Mama Bombina, Avling, Grandeur Palace, and T&T Supermarkets to name a few.

Lunar New Year candy boxes and snacks

Another staple of the new year in Chinese traditions is to have a red lacquered box with compartments filled with candies and snacks called The Tray of Togetherness.

This box usually features six or eight compartments — six symbolizing luck and eight for fortune.  

Meant for visiting family members, you’ll find edible treats ranging from gold foiled chocolate Toonies, candied winter melon, watermelon seeds, fried dough twists and sesame balls to name a few. Of course, every single one has a wordplay or meaning behind them.

Outside of these candy boxes, there are plenty of other traditional foods involved such as rice cakes, turnip cakes, traditional Korean cookies called hangwa, and Vietnamese banana-leaf wrapped bahn chung. These can be eaten as snacks or as part of a larger meal.

You can pick up these snacks individually from bakeries such as Wai Tack Kee and Saint Germain Bakery or you can go to T&T Supermarkets where they also have gift boxes that are ready to go with an assortment of lucky snacks.

Lunar New Year decorations and red envelopes

Alongside all of that food during Lunar New Year, it’s customary to decorate your house inside and out. The common thread is that they are red and will be accompanied by sayings of luck and happiness. Popular decorations include lanterns, upside-down words for luck, kumquat tree, blooming flowers and new year banners.

Perhaps one of the most exciting parts of the Lunar New Year is the Chinese tradition of giving red envelopes filled with money. If you’re looking to purchase red envelopes and other Lunar New Year decorations, a great place to buy them is at One’s Better Living.

Lion dance performance for Chinese New Year
Lion dance is a form of traditional dance performed during Lunar New Year and other festivals to bring good luck and fortune

Lion and dragon dances

We’d be remiss to not mention the popular and playful lion and dragon dances where a talented team of dancers collectively simulate the ferocious movement of the body and head, constantly matching its timing to the beating drum and cymbals.

Normally, you can find these performances in malls and special festivals, but this year, you’ll find several live stream events from Toronto including the Yee Hong Dragon Ball, Chinese New Year Gala, TD FCCM Virtual Chinese New Year, Chinese New Year Performance and Virtual Lunar New Year (TET) Festival.

More about Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year spans numerous cultures and is known by different names. In China, it’s also called Spring Festival or simply Chinese New Year. The festival is also celebrated in Korea as Seollal, Vietnam as Tet, Tibet as Losar and Tsagaan Sar in Mongolia.

In many ways, Lunar New Year is similar to how the new year is celebrated when the clock ticks over to January 1. Instead of following the Gregorian calendar, it follows the Chinese Lunar Calendar which is set to lunar phases, solar solstices and equinoxes. As a result, Lunar New Year is tied to the new moon that occurs between the middle of January and late February.  

According to the Chinese calendar, there is a cycle of 12 zodiac animals. 2022 is the year of the tiger, symbolizing strength, courage and self-confidence.

Lunar New Year is packed with traditions but every culture does it differently and every family follows these customs in their own way. That said, at the core of every celebration is the bringing of good luck, spending time with family and eating lots of delicious food.

Finally, it’s worth noting that Lunar New Year is celebrated for 15 days until the arrival of the full moon (called the Festival of Lanterns). Contrast that to Tet and Seollal which are celebrated for 3 days.