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Don’t Cut the Noodles! Celebrating Chinese New Year’s in Toronto

By Jennifer Merrick | @jenmerrick

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What impressed me most when I moved to Toronto was its multiculturalism. I felt – and still feel, 14 years later – that I could travel the world without leaving the city. I’ve watched a sea of blue and white parade down Danforth Ave. for Greek Independence Day, sang Karaoke in a ‘noraebang’ in Korea Town, munched on Indian sweets while listening to firecrackers go off in Little India during Diwali, the Festival of Lights, and noshed on perogies in Bloor West Village during the Ukrainian Festival. But my favourite adopted celebration in Toronto is Chinese New Year.

Spadina Chinatown. Red dates = good fortune!

I’m fascinated by the never-ending list of dos and don’ts to ensure good luck and prosperity:

Noodles promote a long life. Cut them at your own peril!

Sweep during the holidays and you’ll sweep away your good fortune.

Wear lucky red underwear.

Interestingly, phonetic similarities between words can determine whether they are thought to bring fortune in the New Year. For instance, the word for fish, ‘Yue,’ sounds like the word for overflowing, so a whole fish is a choice New Year’s menu item as are oysters, whose homonym is wealth. Coconut (‘yeh tze’) sounds like the phrase ‘three generations together from grandfather to son’ suggesting long life and peace. There are negative connotations as well. The word ‘shoe’ is similar to the word for ‘difficult,’ so buying new shoes after New Year’s Eve would be bringing difficulty into the New Year.

In 2014, January 31st rings in the year of the Horse, promising adventure, excitement, and unexpected romance. It demands action, not procrastination, so don’t hesitate to celebrate, too. Here are a few ways to do just that in Toronto:

Dim Sum at Bright Pearl

Tour:

Take one of the behind-the-scenes Chinese New Year tours with Shirley Lum, offered in the weeks leading up to and during Chinese New Year. She’ll fill you in on all the traditions surrounding the holiday and fill you up with treats, including dim sum, moon cakes and herbal teals.

Explore:

Most visitors are familiar with the downtown Spadina Chinatown featured on tourist maps and in guidebooks, but there are at least 4 others including East Chinatown (Broadview and Gerrard street), Agincourt (in Scarborough between Midland Avenue and McCowaen Road), and Richmond Hill and Markham (both suburbs north of the City).

Attend a Cultural Event:

The Chinese Cultural Centre of Toronto, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and understanding Chinese tradition and culture through art and education, plans public events every New Year.

Shop:

Walk into the Pacific Mall in Markham and you’ll feel like you’re in Asia. Its shops sell everything from Chinese herbs to fashion and car parts. In the food court, watch homemade noodles being pulled and cut before they’re served in a soup or stir fry at Sun’s Kitchen. The Chinese Centre in Mississauga is a 10-acre commercial site with over 60 stores in the complex, including two supermarkets, a pharmacy and several restaurants. The 45- foot ornate entrance gate is modelled after the Great Wall of China and guarantees you won’t drive by without noticing it.

And most importantly….

Eat:

Food, food and more food is the cornerstone of this family holiday. Many Chinese restaurants have special menus for the New Year featuring the dishes that bring good luck. Experiences can range from the slightly grungy but cheap and delicious Rol San in the downtown Spadina Chinatown, to upscale fine dining at Yang’s Fine Chinese Cuisine in Richmond Hill. Remember though: Don’t cut the noodles!

Chinese Wishing Tree

Chinese Wishing Tree

Gang Hei Fat Choi – Wishing you Great Happiness and Prosperity.

Jennifer Merrick is the author of Toronto Essential Travel Guide iPhone app, where you’ll find insider information on the best Toronto attractions, restaurants, theatres, festivals, neighbourhoods and green spaces, along with useless trivia to impress or annoy friends. As a freelance writer specializing in family travel, she has written for numerous print and on-line publications, including Buffalo News, Montreal Families, Latitudes, TheLoop.ca, TripAtlas.com, 24hours, Today’s Parent, Forever Young, Chill, Sudbury Living, Ontario Magazine, Washington Times and VIA Destinations.

JustKidsTravel.com | @jenmerrick

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